Breweries can still surprise us from time to time. Take Red Door Brewing, which suddenly dropped the news late last week that it will be closing its original brewery and taproom on Candelaria this Saturday.
Wait, what? Once we got over the initial surprise, I hustled to round up the command staff of owner Matt Biggs, head brewer Matt Meier, and operations manager Ali Cattin to find out what the heck was going on over there. We were able to sit down over some pints one last time in the old space on Thursday.
The basic plan going forward is that Red Door will now brew out of the Mother Trail production facility off 12th Street, while keeping its taprooms downtown and in Clovis operational.
“Basically, myself and my business partner from when I was (owning) the gym, and one of the partners at Red Door, we ended up working with Matt Simonds with Mother Trail,” Biggs said. “They went through a little bit of a reorganization, and we were a part of that (and) we’re still working on and finalizing it.
“But, ultimately we had a vested interest in a new production plant. To run two at the same time was pointless. So, the cost of this building being where it is, and being kind of isolated in an industrial area, it just didn’t make any sense for us to keep going. We’ll continue to use the space as needed to maintain licensing and stuff. But, it’s essentially now closed to the public, and a lot of our assets are being moved around, things like that. That’s it in a nutshell.”
Like most breweries, or just businesses in general, the pandemic and its accompanying restrictions have put a dent in Red Door’s business.
“But, to say the coronavirus didn’t have any impact on it (would be wrong), there was a lot of that,” Biggs said. “It’s been a shit year. We’ve all taken a kick in the teeth. Support has been there, but it’s been sporadic and insufficient at times. It’s unpredictable what the industry looks like in the next two years, it’s anyone’s guess at this point. Anybody that thinks they can legitimately tell me what it’s going to look like in even the next year, I think is just full of it.
“So we’re hedging our bets, and we’re trying to reduce our footprint as much as possible. I think ultimately Red Door is going to be a much stronger company coming out of it. We’re doing what makes the most sense for us. And, we’re going to have a big-ass party on Saturday.”
The party will run from noon to 8 p.m., with “Kill the Keg” prices on the remaining stock of beers. Meier said he only wants to take empty kegs with him over to Mother Trail. All remaining package beer will also be offered up, and Biggs even said that even furniture will be available for purchase.
As for that massive collection of growlers that adorns the shelves around the taproom, there is a plan for that, too.
“Since people gave them to us over the years, we didn’t want to throw them out, we didn’t want to sell them,” Cattin said. “Well, I didn’t want to sell them.”
“I’m up for selling anything in this building on Saturday, so come on by, the price is right!” Biggs replied.
All joking aside, that is where the charitable component of Saturday’s party comes into play.
“I was talking to Animal Humane, we were talking about Left Paw (Lager), we will partner with them again this year,” Cattin said. “They’re really good charity partners. They’re lovely people and they always bring dogs. I asked if we could just take donations for the growlers. I think all the glass ones will be $2, anything special will be $5, and anything metal will be $10. All of that money is going to go straight to Animal Humane.”
Cattin said she expects the metal/insulated growlers will go first, and it will be first come, first served, so anyone interested should show up as close to noon as possible. All the prices will be a minimum suggested donation, so if generous animal lovers would like, they can leave even more money. As she said, all of the growler sales will go to Animal Humane, with none staying with the brewery.
“We’re all working, Matt Meier and myself, we’re going to be behind the bar, shut the place down in style,” Cattin said. “Then the bartenders, some of them are leaving, but everybody was offered to go downtown. The rest are going downtown.”
While the bartenders are headed to Central after Saturday, Meier and his brewing team have already relocated to Mother Road.
“I’m totally brewing out of there,” Meier said. “All of our equipment as of last week is out of here, of what we’re going to take, and put into place. It was all plumbed in. We’ll do the electric probably by the end of this week. We slowly started brewing maybe three weeks ago. There will probably be a little bit of a hiccup with running out of some stuff until we get the next batches over there. Other than that, it’s like a new space, you’ve got to find where everything is. It’s almost essentially like I’ve started working at a new brewery. It’s still my same stuff, but we just don’t know where it’s kept now.”
The move should come with benefits beyond more space in which to operate.
“That’s actually going to be a fun part, working with (brewer) David Rosebeary over there, throw some beer in barrels,” Meier said. “Obviously the production side of that place is huge for us, just for Red Door-centric problems. Labor was killing us on canning days. We would take our four guys and we would have to bring in people to label. It’s very inefficient and a long process on a two-fill-head system. This thing spits out cans like …”
“140 cans a minute when it’s running at full capacity,” Cattin added.
“It’s silly,” Meier continued. “And, it comes in with a built-in staff. So it’s something the Red Door guys don’t have to worry about now. It gives us more time to brew, to clean, to brew again, clean some more, add some more cleaning on top of that. From a labor perspective, at least from my side, I think it’s going to work out great. It’s going to give us more time to get stuff done, get some more beers out. I think it will be positive overall, we’ll bank some money, and build our super mega brewery.”
“We don’t just want bells and whistles, we want fireworks and lasers,” Cattin joked.
“A Michael Bay directed brewery,” Meier replied. “Without harmful explosions, I don’t want anyone hurt.”
Getting back to the serious matters at hand, Red Door has gone from just two styles of beers in cans to having every single beer currently on the draft menu now in package form.
“We’ll have higher capacity, we can do more production, we can do more stuff not in package, easier, quicker,” Cattin said.
“Especially in this past year, we leaned in hard on that,” Meier added. “It was labor intensive here, and took up a lot of our time and resources.”
The Mother Trail facility does not currently have a taproom space, and there are no current plans to add one, Biggs said. It is also less than two miles from downtown, which will now be the flagship taproom for Red Door.
“I think to invest in (new) taprooms right now would be a mild case of insanity,” Biggs said. “I think outside of a very specific opportunity, it would definitely have to be the right opportunity for us to even explore the possibility. The opportunities aren’t out there right now. Everybody is on hold. There are plenty of communities out there that could probably use a taproom, but with liquor reform, with coronavirus, with literally everything, it’s definitely for us we’re in a waiting phase. It’s unlikely that we’re going to be moving dramatically on any grand projects.”
The Red Door staff has spent much of the past week assuring people that this is not the end of the company, just a new chapter in its ongoing evolution/adaptation to the changing world.
“We’ve clarified a couple times to customers this week, the beer will still be out there (in cans), you’ll still have the downtown taproom to go to,” Meier said. “By no means are we slowing down. If anything, we’re going to be putting out more beer because of the ability to do so at the new place. Here, we were really handicapped by how much we could do by the number of people we had.”
If anything, this buys Red Door some time to wait for the world to adjust to its new reality, and to see how the craft beer scene in New Mexico and beyond changes with the times.
“We talked about it, we can also decide what kind of brewery we want to be,” Meier said. “We can hold onto the Mother Trail space as production, if we wanted to build a neighborhood brewpub and do just one-off beers there, or we could build a whole production facility. It gives us some time to figure out what the market is going to look like, and what certain neighborhoods demand, and all the way down to what labor we can get.”
Meanwhile, over in Clovis, things are afoot with a new project.
“We’re actually expanding in Clovis, as well,” Biggs said. “We’ll be having a new location on Main Street, hopefully this summer.”
The Crew had noticed a pending offsite winemaker license (Red Door has such a license due to its cider production, in case anyone was wondering) that had been sitting there on the state’s website for some time, so this explains what that is all about.
“It’s (still) pending because of buildout,” Biggs said. “So we had to postpone buildout because we couldn’t have large gatherings. And, the buildout, what we’re doing is an open-air beer garden across from Bandolero.”
Everyone noted that this was in the planning stages even before Bandolero Brewery opened recently, and is not some sort of counter move.
“This was an original plan when we moved into Clovis years ago,” Biggs said. “The buildout will allow us to finalize the license. The state didn’t want us to finalize until we had a built-in area.”
The location is where a former department store once existed, but the building had long since been abandoned and was eventually torn down by the city. Now the lot will be redeveloped into a new experience for craft beer lovers in Eastern New Mexico.
“It’s going to be great,” Cattin said. “There’s an outdoor bar, and a stage. The food truck went out there. It’s going to be a really nice venue. It didn’t make any sense to pour any money into an event space last year.”
The project was originally supposed to be completed in 2020, but the City of Clovis was more than willing to let Red Door push it back. Biggs said their relationship with the city has been great, and he expects that to continue.
“It will help relieve the Clovis taproom, too, because they’re bursting to the gills almost every night,” Cattin added. “A second venue where people can go get our food and our beer out there will be (great).”
All in all, what could have been a sad story has turned out to be anything but, and we are all too happy to learn of all the good things Red Door has planned.
A big thanks to Matt, Matt, and Ali for the interview. We know they are really busy right now, so it was good to have one last gathering at the old spot.
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