I did not expect exactly what I got when I walked in to Palmer Brewery and Cider House to discuss the year in review and what news is upcoming for 2020. I had originally scheduled the interview with Palmer’s owner/brewer Rob Palmer. When I walked in, Left Turn Distilling’s owner/distiller Brian Langwell was there, also, so I asked if he wanted to sit in on the interview. He said he was planning on it, and I figured that was cool and pretty much normal.
This brewing and distilling operation at 2926 Girard Blvd. NE in Albuquerque operates hand-in-hand in the same location. That means when we publish stories on the brewery, there is usually some co-mingling of information with the distilling side of the operation. That is about to increase in scope (hint).
While I waited for Rob to finish up some work, I ordered a beer and sat at the bar. They called me in to the back room and I was a little bit taken aback. You see, interviewing these guys is usually a pretty laid-back process and just feels more like hanging out and chatting with friends. I walked in, and there were five people waiting for me around a table. In reality, it turned out bartenders Ray and Miranda were just there chilling, but at first, I didn’t know that. Rob and Brian had also asked distiller Chris Medina to sit in as well. I wasn’t used to such formality!
The reason for all the “big wigs” being present, so to speak, is because they have big news (hint) — really big news. But first, I wanted to catch up about the past year.
Last year, we had talked about patio construction. That is still happening. Things are underway, but sometimes things take more time than you plan, particularly if your focus changes during the year (hint). The foundation for the patio is done, but it’s cold now, and Brian said he does all his own welding. He said it’s no fun to weld in the cold. And, now that we are in the colder months, a patio will make sense to revisit in the spring.
Rob said he really enjoyed the collaboration brewing he did with several other breweries during the year. Recently, they did a sea salt and lime gose with Starr Brothers that Rob really loved (Two Robs Make a Rita). Left Turn/Palmer’s collaboration malt whiskey that they have been promising me for a while is on oak, but only they will know when it’s ready. These things can’t be rushed!
The partnership with Cocina Amada to provide food through the in-house kitchen is really working out and going strong. Customers love having multiple food options. It’s good for business, and the brewery and distillery can keep their attention on the beer and spirits, not on food.
Chris said he wanted me to let everyone know that they are also ramping up production on the distilling side. They recently came out with a Christmas Gin and asked a local artist to design the label. For those who are not aware, their space also allows local artists to hang their work at no charge (basically free gallery space), taking no percentage of the sales, and they rotate monthly. Artists are encouraged to donate a percentage of sales to the charity of their choice. It’s just one of the ways Palmer/Left Turn gives back to the community.
During the interview, I was drinking the Barrel-Aged Cockness Monster from one of the final two kegs that remain. It’s a killer Palmer Scotch Ale aged in Left Turn bourbon barrels. They want to do more collaborating between the two sides. Currently they are working on a blue corn barrel-aged malt liquor. I jokingly told Rob, “You’re a freak, man!” And, he is freakishly busy. Rob also told me he is also running to be on the Board of Directors for the Brewers Guild. (UPDATE: He was elected. More on that soon. — S)
OK, so I will end the suspense now and talk about 2020. Perhaps it is partly a ploy to get people to actually read through the articles …
Thus far, the original and current location on Girard is the only location for Palmer and Left Turn. That is all about to change. The first addition to the family is going to be in a historic-looking building in central Raton, set to open February 1 (subject to change, as always of course). Raton’s nickname is Gate City, so the joint Palmer/Left Turn venture is going to be called Gate City Craft Bar and Café. Palmer and Left Turn will hold the two licenses and feature their beer, cider, and spirits. They will also offer guest taps, including beer from Raton’s brewery, Colfax Ale Cellar, and more beer from nearby Blü Dragonfly Brewing in Cimarron.
Attached to the pub area will be a package store selling all New Mexico craft beer, wine, and spirits. According to Rob and Brian, they want to encourage any New Mexico producer to sell their products there. They will only be selling New Mexico products. And, as far as they are aware, it is the only one of its kind in the state. Since Raton is a gateway to New Mexico, the theme of all New Mexico products is going to fit right in.
You are all probably wondering the same thing. It’s what everyone asks, Brian said. Why Raton? Well, because Raton came to them and asked them to open. When does a city approach a brewery or distillery with “please come here?” They want people to come to Raton, and there is already a relationship. Brian said he has been involved with several events that happen in Raton every year, including the “Gate City Music Festival” and the motorcycle rally, “Run to Raton.”
Of course, since the founders of the Dark Side Brew Crew are huge metal fans who often travel up to Denver to see shows, we discussed what a great halfway point pit stop this will be. (You are correct. — S) Palmer and Left Turn are also working with the golf course, and they are on board to do some things together. Rob said Raton has a lot to offer, but nobody knows because they never get off the freeway. They are going to try to give them a reason.
Congrats to them for this first off-site location in Raton. We wish them all the …
Oh, but wait. That’s not all, as they say. Why finally open just one off-site location? Why not two? How about taking over another historic building, except this time right in Old Town Albuquerque? A recent ordinance update finally allows taprooms in Old Town. Guess who is going to be first? Yes, it’s another joint Palmer/Left Turn location where just like the original location, their craft beer, cider, and cocktails will all be available. There will be food as well. Now let’s “sweeten the pot.” The taproom will be in the original Candy Lady building on Romero.
A conditional hearing is happening January 21, 2020. As soon as conditional use is granted, they will immediately start on the buildout. The target opening will be three to four months after that. Brian said it seems to be how they do everything — the first distillery in Albuquerque, the first up and running all-in-one operation, the first combo brewery/distillery outpost in Raton with the first New Mexico-only package store, the first taproom in Old Town. It is a massive amount to take on, but this operation definitely has “vision.” Appropriate for 2020, I would say.
Whew, a long-winded cheers,