Brewers in New Mexico are a dedicated lot. The pandemic has been very difficult for nearly everyone, but that hasn’t stopped Dave and Cindy Hayes from launching their new nanobrewery, Piedra Blanca Brewing Company. I stopped by and talked mostly with Dave about their new venture.
Piedra Blanca is currently located in their home in White Rock, which is about a 15-minute drive from Los Alamos. Fortunately, the location of their home is in one of the remote areas of White Rock and is zoned for a home business. White Rock (or, loosely in Spanish, “Piedra Blanca”) is a suburb of Los Alamos, and many people who live there work at Los Alamos National Laboratory. There are a handful of restaurants, but as far as I knew, there was no microbrewery there.
Both Dave and Cindy have primary jobs, but opening up a brewery has been a dream for many years. Cindy was instrumental in the opening of Bathtub Row Brewing in Los Alamos, having served on the board of directors during its formative years, and the experience spurred them into finally getting serious about their own brewery. Dave has been managing the brewing, while Cindy handles the business and merchandising.
Around late 2018/early 2019, they began the process of filing all of the paperwork necessary to open a brewery. Figuring out and jumping through all of the hoops took time, but was at least uneventful. Initial plans were to start slow, though Dave was keen on the idea of selling kegs to restaurants from the get-go.
“One of the things we wanted to do is be able to sell to local restaurants outside of the sphere of what you get in a small brewer’s license in New Mexico,” he said. “You can’t sell to restaurants unless you have a wholesaler’s license. So we applied for a wholesaler and small brewer license at the same time.”
He emphasized that people were very supportive and helpful with both the state and county governments.
Around July 2019, all of the paperwork was finalized, including the standard steps involved in setting up a business, like getting insurance and leasing their own property to their business entity. The brewing equipment was purchased brand-new months earlier so they’d be ready to go. As you can see from the photos, it’s a very nice setup. Dave said he wasn’t interested in cutting corners in that area. He chose SS Brewtech gear and said he has been happy with the equipment and customer service.
Currently, Dave is mostly brewing on weekends. Though the pandemic has forced him to stay home more, it’s not a full-time effort at this point.
“It’s not like we’re really where we have to make money,” he said. “We’re basically making money to pay for all of the ingredients.”
It is convenient for him to be able to walk into the other room and check on things.
Customers to this point have either been neighbors who have seen the signs outside their house or heard about them through word of mouth. Business has been good, Dave said. The Piedra Blanca website lists their available beers and has a form for contacting them, and people can also just send a text with their order. At the moment, sales are either in growler or keg form.
In terms of his brewing philosophy, Dave said he likes to keep it simple. He’s not keen on following the fads of the day, like hazy IPAs or sours. He sticks with the styles that have stood the test of time, like bocks, stouts, and wheats.
“I keep the rotation aligned with the old school, I’ll say, for beers that have been around for centuries. There’s a reason people are still drinking those beers, right?” he said.
His current stock is an IPA (which, while hoppy, is a more modest form balanced by the malts), an oat stout, and a bock. He’s not averse to trying different things, though; he just ran out of one he called Biere de July, which was a mash-up of Alsatian Biere de Mars, saison, and a wit. He also has an imperial stout that’s currently aging in a whiskey barrel.
The pandemic has affected Dave’s plans to sell to restaurants, of course. That’s still the goal when things recover. He’s happy to keep going the way he’s been going, but he does hope to open a taproom.
“I think we could parlay that into a larger system with an off-site brewing location,” he said. “That’s next steps, but we’re just kind of treading water right now to see what happens given the virus.”
We ended things with some tasting, and the IPA and stout were very good. I’ve developed into someone who’s always looking for the next DIPA hop bomb, but the IPA was delicious and drinkable, coming in at 6.2-percent ABV and 67 IBUs. My next favorite style is stout, and he delivered there, as well. You can tell that Dave has invested a lot of time, money, and pride in delivering a quality product.
“I hold my reputation in high regard,” he said. “I’m not going to sell you something that I’m not certain meets a standard.”
If you live in the Los Alamos area or are visiting, it’s definitely worth your time to check out Piedra Blanca. I’m sure Dave would be happy to give you a tour of the place and set you up with one of his fine beers. For additional information, visit their website.