FARMINGTON — The northwestern part of New Mexico was long a one-brewery region, home to Three Rivers Brewery since 1997. Finally, in 2019, a second major brewery has opened down the road, one that embraces modern and traditional beer styles, while providing a fun place to play games for folks of all ages, but particularly for those of us in Generation X.
Lauter Haus Brewing is one part brewery, one part classic arcade, with an indoor cornhole court thrown in for good measure. Basically, it is a giant playground for beer geeks and anyone who wants to relive the fun of the past.
After about four weeks of operation, I sat down with owner/head brewer Brandon Beard over a flight of beers and a pulled pork sandwich from the Silver Star BBQ food truck parked out front.
“Things are going fairly, actually, really good,” Brandon said. “I’m having some hiccups here and there. Carbonation has been an issue of mine over the last couple of days. In the beginning it was good, now I’m struggling with it again. But, for the most part, we’ve been very well received. I can’t believe how well we’ve been received. Honestly, the numbers are really good.”
The four beers on my tray — Lenny Bavarian Wheat, Foley’s IRA (Irish Red), Hosehead IPA, Stout Stout Let it all Out — all poured just fine.
“The beers, I mean, I’ve been open three weeks, and we’re only a 7-barrel brewhouse, and I brewed my fourth batch of Hosehead IPA,” Brandon said. “We’re definitely crushing through some beers right now. We’re on our second variation of kettle sour, we’re on our second Bavarian wheat, we’re on our second Foley’s. We’re on pretty much the second batch of every one of our beers. I didn’t think that was going to happen just being a taproom, not distributing or anything like that. I didn’t see that happening. I figured I would get a week or two of breathing room, but I have not. I’m still underwater right now on the brewery side.”
The other two house beers were L-25 (Kettle Sour) and Bikes by Mike (Blonde Ale). Brandon said he already ran through his first two seasonals much faster than expected.
“That’s kind of what we’re trying to portray here a little bit, is pushing different styles, going back to almost classic styles,” Brandon said. “We’re still doing some of the weird stuff and one-off stuff, but with a name like Lauter Haus, I’m trying to push as many different German styles back on people. That’s why I’ve got a Bavarian wheat on at all times. Like what (Jeff) Erway has said, over there on the Westside his number one beer is Slice of Hefen.”
Brandon said all of his beers are within two percent of each other in sales, though IPA has nudged ahead of the rest, as it does at most breweries around the country. Its lead is not too far ahead of the rest of the lineup.
“The Bavarian wheat is close up there, it really is,” Brandon said. “It’s definitely taken off here. I’ve talked to a few people and they said they didn’t know if a hefe would sell year round. I believe it will. I think there’s always a market for hefe. Let’s face it, you can crank the beer out in five days. It’s pretty easy to do and get it to people.
“We’ve been pushing the wheat. We’re ordering fresh yeast for that every batch, which is something I’ve gotten into with our yeast supplier. We’ve kind of made a deal and it works for me. I’ll be able to do it every time, and it doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg to be able to order yeast for that beer every time, make sure that the phenolics are right in the beer instead of trying to reuse hefe yeast, which some people try to do and you can definitely tell.”
Lauter Haus is housed in two buildings at 1806 E. 20th Street, which is right near the geographic heart of Farmington. It sits across from the Allen Theaters and near the Farmington Public Library.
“20th Street is the second busiest part of town besides East Main,” said Brandon, who was previously the head brewer at Three Rivers, which is located on East Main. “Whenever we were looking at buildings, that’s what (we sought) was centralized. The center of town is the library, and the library is right across the street. The city center is the library, and they’re within a thousand feet of us. When we found this building, we jumped on it as quick as we could.”
The smaller building is for offices and dry storage. The larger building is home to the brewery and the taproom/gameroom area.
“It was a dump when we got it,” Brandon said. “There were panels missing out of the roof. It had been empty for four or five years. We went in and bought it. We decided to rip everything out and start everything fresh.”
The initial plan was far more modest when Brandon and his partners conceived of Lauter Haus.
“It’s kind of crazy, because we had a concept and it just evolved and kept evolving and kept evolving,” he said. “We knew we wanted to do some type of cornhole or some indoor league that gets people to come in and socialize. Then we’re all kind of geeks when it comes to the gaming. I’m not an Xbox gamer, per se, but I am an arcade. I love arcades, I love old games. I’m not into PlayStations or any of that stuff. The games we have, people are just loving them. This is what they grew up doing.”
That customer base was also not what the staff expected when they opened. Brandon said he estimates on the busiest nights, only 50 out of the 160 or so occupants are in their 20s. The rest come from the residential neighborhoods that lie to the north and south of the brewery.
“What we’ve noticed is from where I was at Three Rivers, their taproom was a lot younger of a crowd,” Brandon said. “What we’re noticing is we’re averaging 40 years old in here, maybe older. It’s been kind of interesting. I’ve never been to a brewery where our average (customer) age is in the 40s. It’s been good to see. I think what it is, is surrounding us are all (residential) neighborhoods. Those are all houses. We’re kind of a neighborhood taproom.”
Brandon said he has found that bar and brewery patrons in Farmington are particularly interested in having something to do besides drink beer, have a conversation, and maybe watch sports on a TV. Lauter Haus is equipped with a sizable indoor cornhole court, plus dozens of classic arcade and pinball games.
“It’s close to 10,000 square feet,” Brandon said of the entire building. “We occupy a lot of space with that cornhole court. But, we felt as though it would be beneficial to us. Our occupant load is only 166. If we had more room in here, it wouldn’t feel like it’s ever full. … It actually worked out really well, because on Friday nights we’ve got people lined up waiting to play all night. It’s worked out pretty good for us.”
There is storage space behind the wall on the northern end of the taproom, so there is a chance that the indoor footprint can be expanded in the future. Similarly, the brewery area at the south end of the building has plenty of room in which to grow.
Brandon had a dunkelweiss going on tap the day after I visited, and he has plans for plenty of additional beers as he pushes the 7-barrel brewhouse to its full potential. So far, the feedback from customers has been good.
“Everything has been really positive,” he said. “I’m obviously, like I said, they’re second generation. First generation were OK. I had a 1-barrel pilot next door. I did all my formulation over there. But then, whenever you go from a 1- to a 7-, it’s a whole new ballgame. It’s just like cooking, if you did a recipe and try to triple it, it doesn’t always taste the same.
“We’re getting to second generations on a lot of beers, so they are getting better. There are a couple that are pretty close to where I want to be. Some of them still need some work. Overall, people are positive toward the beers. I’m pretty happy with the feedback that we’re getting. I think we sold our 10,000th pint last Friday (November 8). We’ve only been open three weeks, to sell 10,000 pints is pretty good. It seems to be going over pretty good.”
I found that all four of the beers I tried were clean and true to style, so you can add my thumbs up to the reviews Brandon has received from his more regular customers.
The next time you head up to the Farmington area, even if normally you do not stop for a beer on the way to or from Durango, now you have a great reason to take a break and enjoy a pint with Lauter Haus. Plus, you can get that 1990s arcade fix, all while enjoying some pints, food from the local food trucks, and know you are once again supporting another local brewery run by a good group of people.
Thank you to Brandon for the tour and the beers. I will be back soon, since after all, that Iron Maiden pinball game kept calling my name.