Back when we sent out requests for interview times for our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series, a few breweries turned us down this year, mainly due to the simple exhaustion of talking about the pandemic and its wide-ranging effects over and over again.
A few other breweries just asked us to wait a while until a clearer picture of the future appeared. One of those was Boese Brothers Brewery, and after giving them the time that they requested, co-owner George Boese invited me over to talk about what they have been up to in the last year-plus of business.
The obvious major change is apparent right when you walk into the original brewery taproom downtown at Gold and Sixth Street — a cocktail menu and spirits bottles on the bar.
“That’s definitely our biggest change from the year before was during the pandemic we used that downtime to navigate the considerable red tape around operating a distillery,” George said. “We kind of delved into the craft distilling thing, and we actually have probably had our craft distillers license since fall of 2020, but wintertime was really slow season, and we’re still getting into producing stuff, bottling stuff, and doing all of that. We really kind of made the decision to wait on rolling out all that stuff until the April/May timeframe.”
In a way, it has doubled the craft offerings that Boese Brothers can provide to its customers.
“It’s pretty exciting for us, because I think cocktails are kind of cool because we have 10 beers on our menu, which I think is a good spread,” George said. “I know some breweries in town have 20 or more, but we don’t have the physical space, tanks or kegs or even cooler space to put out that many beers back there. It’s a cool way to essentially double the amount of things that we offer here, and still have a really fun, craft focus on stuff, and make really good-looking, really good-tasting stuff.”
The reception so far has been positive.
“People still like alcohol, which is good,” George said. “Having never done it before, particularly with this location that’s been here for five-and-a-half years as a beer/wine/cider kind of place, I was interested to see what people would think about adding stuff to the menu. The reception has been really good. A lot of new customers who aren’t traditionally beer-drinking customers, and then a lot of our regulars still drink beer, but mix a cocktail in here every once in a while here, too. It’s been good.”
Other than that, the changes at Boese Brothers have been subtle at best. If anything, George said the biggest change he has seen has come from the customers. In the past, people rarely occupied the patio in the winter, but now they are just as happy outside in February as they were in the past in July.
“I think some of that is Covid related, some of that is just summer in New Mexico related,” George said. “Because pre-pandemic, we had summer nights where you would come in here on a Thursday or Friday night and it would look like we had no customers. Literally everyone was on the patio, it’s just my two bartenders inside enjoying the air conditioning.”
George said the winter was tough for Boese Brothers, just like every other business in the state, but things are picking up with the lifting of restrictions, mass vaccinations, and the improving weather.
Of course, Boese Brothers is not merely the downtown brewery. There is also the Brewpub on Tramway, the Los Alamos taproom, and Desert Dogs, the taproom in Santa Fe that is co-owned with New Mexico Hard Cider. George provided updates on all three locations.
- Brewpub on Tramway: “As you can imagine, that’s a small taproom to begin with. Having that small, temporary patio was difficult out there. I’ve been working with my landlord over the past year and we’ve finally come to terms with turning that patio into a permanent patio. That’s on my to-do list today is submitting plans to Bernalillo County to basically use the same-sized space, but build out the concrete slab so you’re not sitting in the parking lot. The view is really nice, people still want to sit out there. It’s something we’ve been trying to change, but when you don’t own the building, you have to be pretty meticulous when negotiating with the landlord.”
- Desert Dogs: “Desert Dogs is doing well. I don’t know if you’ve been up to Santa Fe, but it seems like there’s a pretty good tourist push happening again in Santa Fe, which is nice. Desert Dogs doesn’t have a patio, so there were extended periods last year when it was closed. And, it’s technically in a mall, because it’s in a multi-unit building. There were times when that mall was closed where we weren’t allowed to go inside, period. It didn’t stop the rent checks. You’re not allowed to go inside, but you still have to pay for the space. That was interesting to deal with.”
- Los Alamos: “The big thing we’ve been working on in the background in Los Alamos, is with our push to doing cocktails and distillery here, we’re adding a cocktail bar adjacent to the brewpub in Los Alamos. That bar will be called The Long Pour, focusing on some pretty high-end, pretty nice creative kind of cocktails and stuff. We’re hoping to open that this summer. We’re literally right next to our taproom.”
Boese Brothers does do events from time to time, but George said there is nothing sizable on the horizon, beyond participating in the monthly First Friday Artwalk downtown.
“During our First Friday Artwalks downtown, we’ve had DJs out there again,” he said. “That’s fairly easy to accommodate because it’s one person with equipment. We’re not actively planning any larger events until we get some clear guidance on whether or not people can kind of roam around. Hopefully that’s happening in a month or so. It seems like the governor, at least what they’ve said is they’re dropping the (color) grading system when we hit a certain 60 percent of vaccination rates, which is kind of wait and see. The goal line has been changed multiple times. That’s a shot up in the air.”
On the beer front, there are some new brews and old favorites coming back, and George said they will be taking advantage of their distilling barrels for future beer aging.
“We do have some new stuff coming out,” he said. “With the distillery starting to move some whiskey out of barrels for the first time, what are we going to put in that barrel? We happen to have some of our imperial porter on hand, which is cool. We’ll have barrel-aged porter coming out, (but) we might sit on that until it cools down a little bit post-summer. I don’t know if that’s something that people really look for when it’s 100 degrees outside.”
One old favorite coming back is so old it predates brewer Josh Hammond.
“There’s a beer we took offline to replace years ago,” George said. “We made a Belgian white ale that we’re going to do as a seasonal for the first time since we got rid of it. That’s kind of fun. Our brewer, Josh, he’s been brewing with us for years now, but he’s never actually made it. I’m the last one to ever make it.
“We’re doing that, and planning the popular thing that people seem to be looking for is working in your fruitier tasting IPAs in the summertime. I have mixed feelings about the IPAs. I really enjoy them, but at the same time as someone who has been enjoying craft beer for a long time, you can’t help but notice that your Belgian-style ales, your Scotch ales, your malty stuff, your brett beers, your barrel-aged beers are disappearing. They’re being replaced by hazy IPAs. It bums me out, too, that you can’t get some of those things.”
In the end, though, what sells is what shall be brewed right now, as all the breweries look to get back to where they were before the pandemic.
A big thanks to George for the interview. We wish him luck in building out that patio on Tramway, and all the red tape that comes with any construction project in this town, and we are happy to see that all four Boese Brothers locations are still humming along.
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