In all the time that I have lived in New Mexico (1986-96, 2008-present), no members of my mother’s side of the family have ever made any part of this state my home. That changed recently when my cousin’s husband was assigned to Cannon Air Force Base, which gave me a perfectly good excuse to trek over to Clovis and take everyone to lunch at the new Bandolero Brewery.
Once we completed our rather epic feast, I got a chance to have a quick conversation and behind-the-scenes tour with owner/head brewer Andrew Logan to learn how he created the first brewery in Clovis’ long history.
“It was in 2018 that Red Door was having a celebration down here on Main Street, where they’re going to put their (future) beer garden,” Logan said. “My wife and I were talking with some people from the city, and they told us they hoped that more breweries from Albuquerque would come out here, but none were willing so far. I looked at her and said we should think about opening our own brewery.”
As luck would have it, Logan’s wife had a cousin who owned a vacant former thrift store location at 421 N. Main Street. Logan purchased the building for $140,000 and got to work.
It was not easy to transform a retail space into a brewery, and the process would again hit an unexpected bump in the road in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic, but it actually ended up giving them time to iron out the final kinks and get everything installed and ready. Now they have a fully functional brewpub, with 12 house beers on tap, and a full food menu.
When we arrived shortly after 11 a.m., following a trip to the zoo with my cousin’s 2-year-old daughter, it was not that busy. By the time the clock hit noon, nearly every table was full.
“We have a capacity of about 120 people,” Logan said. “When we can have bar seating again, we can have even more, but then we’ll have to add to our staff, and that’s a problem for everyone (statewide).”
The staff that was there did an excellent job juggling so many tables. The food arrived fresh and hot, the beers were cold and properly poured, and while I am no fan of most country music, the soundtrack seemed to please the Clovis locals.
Logan had served at Cannon during his time in the Air Force. He was a sergeant who helped maintain the F-111 bombers, which was just the beginning of his days as a hands-on engineer. Logan then returned to the Clovis area and worked as the automation engineer at Southwest Cheese, one of the largest non-military regional employers in Eastern New Mexico.
Now he applies much of what he learned as an engineer, and of course as a home brewer, to brewing up the house beers at Bandolero. Logan was brewing a new blonde ale for the warmer summer temperatures as we talked on his 10-barrel brewhouse.
“When I was a homebrewer I had 11 beers on tap at my house, which helped prepare me for this,” he said. “It also meant that all the homebrew club meetings ended up at my house.”
The standout beers on the menu included the Sidewiner Kolsch, Vaquero Pale Ale, and Flannel Mouth (Light American Amber). Logan said the Blueberry Wit has also been a surprisingly big hit. The New Mexico IPA shows some promise with a few more tweaks, while Logan said he already has done a second batch of the Dark Horse, a whiskey barrel imperial stout.
“We maxed out the system with the first one, so we ended up with almost 200 pounds of malt that we couldn’t fit in here, so it came out a little thin,” he said. “For the next one we just split it up and did two batches. That one is in the fermenter right now, and it’s tasting better.”
Like so many other smaller towns in New Mexico, Clovis had seen its original downtown fall into a decline. Now businesses are starting to return, and Bandolero is clearly becoming an anchor tenant for Main Street. The food menu is extensive, varied, and quite good (I had the Chicken Parmesan Sandwich, which started out as a one-off, but customer demand earned it a permanent spot on the menu, and I could quickly see why). The beers are well on their way to matching up to where they could hold their own in a market like Albuquerque or Santa Fe, with a much greater variety than I expected for a part of the state that is more comparable to West Texas in its general palate.
Whether you’re visiting family in the Clovis area, passing through en route to wherever, or just interested in an in-state road trip/brewery crawl, definitely add Bandolero Brewery to your itinerary.
A big thanks to Andrew for the tour, and to his staff for the hospitality. Even the 2-year-old enjoyed her visit, which is no small feat.
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