Walking into Turquoise Trail is kind of like walking into a scene from Cheers, to a place where you feel welcome and everybody knows your name, despite the fact that it hasn’t even been in business for six months.
I was immediately greeted by Felicia, once a frequent customer herself, and now an employee since starting as a server in October.
Since the brewery opened its doors at the end of July, business at Turquoise Trail has been steadily growing every month. Its location near the eastern end of Central (specifically 11016 Central Ave. SE) has brought in a group of regulars from the nearby neighborhoods, as well as employees from Sandia Labs on their way home from work. Positive Google reviews from the regulars have, in turn, brought in even more business.
“There’s lots of interest in our story,” said Sean Lawson, owner and brewer. “And, lots of interest in our new beers.”
As for those new beers, the first, “Run Off With a Blonde Ale,” was just officially released Thursday. It was still in the fermenter at the time of my visit, so if you stop by for a pint, be sure to let us know what you think. The brewery is located in the back building and is equipped with a 3-barrel system, along with a brand-new (used) walk-in cooler. Two other beers, a stout and an amber, are planned to follow up the blonde’s release. The goal is to have six of Turquoise Trail’s own brews on tap by January to mid-February.
In the meantime, guest beers from other local breweries continue to be available. While I was there, Toltec Brewing arrived with a new shipment of 5 Paths Pale Ale, and Ex Novo’s Mass Ascension IPA was recently put on tap as well. Sean said he tries to keep the selection rotating to keep things interesting. Although he said the clientele generally tends to be that of a more mature audience, who often already have an idea of what they like, his customers like to mix it up and try different things.
Since the last time the Crew visited, Sean said he’s gained a little more insight and a tiny bit of history, although there are still some growing pains to work out. One of those is how to bring in more food options. When asked if the Dion’s next door has helped to bring in more business, he said that it has, but not as much as he expected, mentioning the cinder block wall between the two businesses as somewhat of a hindrance.
Sean recently began bringing in food trucks, but has had some issues with cancellations, a common complaint among breweries that we have talked to in the past.
“When they’re here, it’s great,” he said. “But, it makes it hard from a scheduling and promoting standpoint.”
Eventually, Sean said he hopes to have a small food truck or trailer of his own, since there isn’t much space for a kitchen inside the taproom itself.
Looking ahead into next year, Sean said he would also like to do more events. In mid-October, the brewery hosted a fundraiser for A Barking Chance Animal Rescue, and it was their most popular day in business so far, raising a lot of money for the organization.
A staple that Sean said he plans to continue is live music every Saturday night. Because of the small room size, the music is typically mellow acoustic, such as old country covers, and contemporary original singer/songwriters.
Another recurring event revolves around the Buzztime digital game system, purchased as a fixture in the brewery, available to all customers, and family-friendly. The system is currently popular among the Sandia Labs employees who enjoy playing trivia tournaments on Tuesday nights.
I stuck around for a beer (OK, two beers) after the interview was over, and got a feel for what an evening at Turquoise Trail is really about. When interacting with customers, Sean is in his element. He is informative about beer styles, and takes time to answer questions so that even a first-time visitor can make an informed decision about what they want to try. And, he has already gained a rapport with the regulars, learning and playing impromptu cribbage games, and coming up with new names for beers yet to be brewed.
These small personal touches add to the relaxed vibe that seems effortless, which the customers seem to appreciate, having provided Sean with a lot of encouragement about opening up a brewery in this area. He said he has been happy with the positive response he has received from his customers so far.
“And,” he said, “We have a pretty good view of the mountains.”
Thanks to both Sean and Felicia for being so welcoming, and for taking time to chat about what the future holds for one of Albuquerque’s newest breweries.