Bill and Vicky Arnold were never the type of couple to settle quietly into retirement. Oh, sure, there were the long vacation road trips, and spending time with their grandchildren, but they found themselves more than a little restless.
It came down to a combination of those road trips, a love of craft beer, friends in the industry, and a desire to create something for everyone in their hometown of Alamogordo that ultimately inspired Bill and Vicky to start up 575 Brewing.
We knew the relatively new brewery — it opened January 15, 2020 — was already receiving a great deal of local support when it finished as the runner-up in our Patio Bracket Tournament last summer. To officially kick off the interview/get-to-know-a-brewery portion of our recent Southern New Mexico tour last weekend, three of us in the Crew — myself, Andrew, and Luke (who took most of the photos on our trip with an actual camera) — sat down with Bill and Vicky on their expansive patio on a warm Alamogordo afternoon.
“I really don’t have a clue” where the idea to open a brewery started, Bill said. “You know, five years ago, this was not anywhere on the map. I retired from the Border Patrol seven years ago. She retired from teaching three years after that. One summer, we like doing road trips, we went from Calexico, California, all the way up to San Francisco. Tony McGee has that book out, So You Want to Start a Brewery?, funniest book that there is, we had the book on tape. We hit (multiple) breweries.
“The next year we did five weeks, basically from San Francisco all the way up into Canada. Hitting breweries, camping out, Marriott every third night, state parks, stuff like that. We just loved ‘breweries near me’ on Google. Anytime we go to a town we don’t know, we hit that.”
In addition to visiting breweries while on vacation, Bill had also started to brew at home.
“We were brewing in the garage, just for fun,” he said. “My first was (from) a little box. I don’t even remember what the beer was. We made it in a 3-gallon pot on the stove. We put it in a little Cornelius keg. We drank it all, but it was probably crap. I don’t even remember (what it was). … I think you’re right, it was probably some American amber ale.”
Rather than simply dive into the process of opening a brewery just based on a few homebrew batches, Bill ended up reaching out to some friends in the industry.
“One day we were over at Spotted Dog Brewery in old Mesilla, Jerry and Susie Grandle own that,” he said. “We were over there drinking a beer. He and I, we just struck up a conversation. He had never let, as far as I know, anyone brew with him. Because when Jerry brews, don’t talk, because everything is time, temperature, and everything. I said, do you mind if I come over and brew, I’d like to open a brewery someday. And, he said yeah, come over Mondays and Tuesdays, we brew. I apprenticed with him, not every Monday and Tuesday, but I did quite a bit of brewing with him, learning the commercial side. We figured we can do this.”
Another bit of inspiration came when Bill was up north, working on a project with a friend.
“I was doing a commercial project (at) Los Alamos (National Laboratories) for a buddy,” he said. “Bathtub (Row) Brewing is up there. I started going in there, and I said, hey, y’all need any help? I’m stuck here, my family’s not here. The first thing I did was mill grain for them. An old drill and a big respirator mask outside. When I was done, you’re covered head to toe. I figured this is fun. We helped them brew. They had a 3-barrel system. That’s probably one of the things, Jerry and them helped us decide let’s do this.”
“Susie helped me learn all the taxes, the business end,” Vicky added.
The structure of 575 Brewing resembles a classic warehouse brewery, though in this case it was not a repurposed space, but built from the ground up. There is a sizable interior bar area, but the larger patio area is the dominant feature.
“One trip we hit Dragoon Brewery in Tucson,” Bill said. “This is kind of modeled after it a little bit. They’re in a commercial warehouse. We liked that. We said let’s do this. We always wanted an outdoor beer garden. Little did we know it would be our saving grace during Covid. I mean, we opened up January 15, 2020. Covid shut us down March 15, 2020.”
The patio was also seen as necessary in regards to the local populace. Alamogordo is a town filled with young families, particularly those stationed at nearby Holloman Air Force Base.
“We built this, too, us growing up on the southern border and (with) the Border Patrol, we never could go anywhere with our kids,” Bill said. “We have four children, they’re all grown now, but (back then) you couldn’t find babysitters. So we decided let’s build a place — we’ve got a big Air Force community and they all have kids — usually on Saturdays with the weather getting nicer, kids are running around playing everywhere.”
Between the fresh beers on tap and live music on the stage outside, 575 Brewing has become a major draw in Alamogordo. People throughout the Tularosa Basin, as well as tourists coming up from Texas and Las Cruces, have also been stopping by, as recent sales trends have shown.
“We’ve noticed since the restaurants have opened up, we are doing flights out the wazoo,” Bill said. “I mean, last Friday night, we did like 78 flights. We’re averaging 45 to 50 flights a day now, which tells me that new people are coming in.”
The majority of customers are local residents, though due to the combination of past isolation from the rest of the New Mexico craft breweries, as well as the constant shuffle of Air Force personnel from base to base, there is still a fair amount of educating that the 575 Brewing staff must do for people.
“We built it for the community, so an Air Force husband and wife, they can bring their kids,” Bill said. “We have a three-beer limit like most breweries do. That has been one of the hardest things to explain to people. It’s craft beer. Our lowest (ABV) beer is our White Sands Wit, which is 5.6 (percent). Our Sleeping Lady (Light American Ale) is our most popular beer. It’s the closest thing I have to Bud Light. It’s our entry beer.”
Bill and Vicky said the community support has been amazing so far, keeping their brewery more than afloat amid the Covid restrictions on occupancy. Alamogordo is starting to see it as well, with Bill telling us that there may be as three or four craft beer bars looking to open up this year, in addition to the presence of existing taprooms owned by Ruidoso’s Tall Pines Beer and Wine Garden and Las Cruces’ Picacho Peak Brewing.
While taprooms and beer bars are nice, Bill noted that there is nothing quite like a full-fledged brewery, even if it means he is currently working about 90 hours a week.
“You can delegate a little more,” Vicky told him. “And, eventually he might, but he does love working,”
Bill replied that other brewery owners have told him not to expect any vacation time for at least the first two years of operation, but he seemed fine with that.
As for the beers on tap, the diverse selection was impressive. The only guest taps were four ciders and Steel Bender’s Raspberry Dynamite. Bill said he has no plans to brew a sour, and since that beer is Vicky’s favorite, it should stay on for the foreseeable future. Otherwise, there are 14 total house beers, with most being permanent fixtures, and a few that will rotate, including the upcoming Dark Canyon Ale.
Styles on tap when we visited included the aforementioned light American ale and Belgian wit, along with three fruited ales (Bluff Springs, Sacramento Sunset, Raspberry Trestle), a Belgian strong (575 Reaper), a red ale (Barley’s Red), pale ale (Rim Trail), brown ale (Organ Pass), Scottish ale (Sunspot), porter (Rock Hound), cherry stout (Grindstone), and two IPAs (Gato Mountain and Fallen Wings). The latter IPA has a special story attached.
“The Fallen Wings Foundation is an Air Force foundation that we donate to them for everything we brew (of that IPA),” Bill said. “We give them $15 a keg, $30 a barrel. It’s for whenever a pilot or one of the crew die in an airplane mishap. It goes to their families. We keep tweaking it. This last one seems to be selling really good. We’re not going to change it for a while. People seem to like it. The more we can sell, the more we can donate.”
Now that is something that we can all get behind. Kudos to 575 Brewing for already helping out people in its community.
We pass along a hearty thank you to Bill, Vicky, and their entire staff at 575 Brewing. This is definitely a spot worth visiting the next time you are headed down to White Sands National Park and/or the southern mountains.
Look for more stories on our Southern New Mexico brewery tour in the coming days.
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