For the first time in, well, ever, Old Town has a local taproom among its many businesses. The Taproom at Old Town is now open, and I stopped in for a quick visit on Thursday afternoon, along with a slew of other industry personnel.
The Taproom at Old Town is located at 546 Romero St. NW, which is basically right off the southeast corner of the intersection of Mountain and Rio Grande. Its neighbors include that cool fountain that tourists take pictures in front of, the Albuquerque visitor center run by the city, and Little Anita’s. If that location sounds familiar to some, you probably visited the building when it was the Candy Lady for many years, before that Old Town institution moved a few blocks to the east.
It was a long-term, long-awaited project from the guys behind Palmer Brewery and Left Turn Distilling. I managed to grab a rather happy Rob Palmer for a quick chat about the opening, that will continue forward every day, except Mondays, starting at 3 p.m.
“Finally! It was September 2019 when we got the lease on this building,” Palmer said. “It feels great. It’s about time. It’s a great neighborhood. We’re stoked to be a part of Old Town.”
The taproom interior is in a sort of L shape, with tables on the west side and northeast sides, and the bar area in between. There is a cozy patio out front facing Romero and Rio Grande, and inside there is a full kitchen operated by the good folks from Kitsune, one of the finest food trucks in all the land.
Palmer said a big part of the early adjustment period will be the bar staff and Kitsune kitchen staff working in harmony with one another. The bar staff was constantly buzzing about, even without a full house of customers when I was there (it was still early, and more and more people were coming in as I departed), still making sure everything was entered properly in the point-of-sale system, and trying to hard to make sure they were getting the food out to customers as soon as the kitchen told them it was ready.
The cocktail lineup was strong, as the young couple sitting to my left at the bar were happy to point out, and there was a good lineup of beers on tap, mixing traditional and modern styles. Marble brewmaster Josh Trujillo and I both went with the Low Card Lager, but the Hazy Hazy and Big Bro IPA were also popular. Some of the staff from Safehouse Distilling picked up the Old Town Hard Iced Tea as an alternative.
Listening to the couple to my left, they told the bar staff that they lived nearby, and had never even heard of Palmer or Left Turn before. In a way, then, this taproom will certainly create a new audience for Rob’s beers and Brian Langwell’s spirits.
“Exactly,” Palmer said. “The beer at Palmer, we don’t distribute. We’re on a 7-barrel system. We’re not trying to get beers out to the other bars in town, we just opened our own to serve it. It’s awesome. The spirits from Left Turn are distributed throughout the state; the beer has been lacking in distribution, but I don’t think we’re ever going to go that model.”
Palmer praised the rest of the staff in doing much of the manual labor in building out the taproom. Langwell built the lovely copper-topped bar, and the others collaborated on building the shelving behind it. As for the crowd of industry personnel that was gathering in greater numbers, Palmer added that he is hopeful that it will become a major destination for brewers and distillers alike as an after-work spot for all those who put in a day’s hard labor downtown, Wells Park, and points beyond.
All in all, it was a cozy, fun place to grab a pint or a cocktail, right on the edge of the biggest tourist draw in Albuquerque. It is easy to see it becoming a huge draw for Palmer and Left Turn, and its opening is another positive sign that local businesses are beginning to shake off the era of pandemic restrictions and begin growing again.
A big thanks to Rob for the invitation to stop by. I have a good feeling that it will not be my last visit, and if any and all of you have the chance this weekend, you should stop by for your first visit as well.
Keep supporting local!