Over the years, breweries have often added a second style of alcoholic beverage to their repertoire, from hard kombucha to spirits to cider. It is less common for another producer of alcohol to decide to add beer to its menu, but that is what has happened over at Sandia Hard Cider.
To learn a little more about this nascent brewing operation, we caught up with brewer Ram Khalsa, formerly of Lava Rock and La Cumbre.
“This used to be shared space with Sandia Hard Cider and Desert Valley Brewing,” Khalsa said. “Desert Valley has since stopped brewing, so Sandia Cider bought their equipment. That’s right about the time I showed up. They brought me on to do the cider and tighten up that side of things, but also to start the brewing side.”
Late Shift Brewing is the name of the brand, and its beers are now alongside the ciders at The Craftroom at 2809 Broadbent Parkway near Menaul and Interstate 25.
Once Khalsa had things set up around the brewhouse, he made the decision to take the brewing in a different direction rather than the standard ale-focused approach.
“Once we got everything in order and got the tanks (set up), the size of the equipment, the amount of tank space that we had, and all of these things just let me do let’s do a lager house,” Khalsa said. “Let’s do four to six beers — we don’t have our seasonals on yet, just our main (four) — keeping it small, do lagers, but not traditional. Like, for example, the helles isn’t really a helles because it isn’t German noble hops, but it’s kind of helles style. The Hop Hero, which is our super hoppy option, is very unique. It’s German noble hops and sexy IPA hops kind of combined. It still needs some tweaking. These are our first iterations for everything.”
The helles-that-isn’t-a-helles is called La Vida Lager, and is joined on tap by Brewster Bock, Hop Hero IPL, and one non-lager.
“And then, of course, we had to throw in the Belgian wit,” Khalsa said, noting that this one is made with whole oranges, rather than orange peel. The beer certainly appeals to fans of Marble’s Double White or the ubiquitous Blue Moon.
The La Vida Lager, though, is moving the fastest so far. It is light, but flavorful, with a slight sweetness and a clean finish. The bock is mildly roasty, with some sweeter notes that come off almost chocolate-like. Both the lager and the bock are candidates to join the ciders in distribution, though Khalsa said those plans are just starting to come together.
In the meantime, he and fellow brewer Richard Sweeney will continue to play around with their recipes. The cider, of course, will still take priority on the production schedule, but the beer will receive equal love and care.
“The cider is fantastic, it keeps the lights on, and there’s lots of room for creativity,” Khalsa said. “But, the best part about it and really why I took this job is there’s no onus on we’ve got to push beer, we’ve got to sell beer, we’ve got to make it happen. So that’s been really cool. The long-term plans are growing organically, getting people to like lagers without them even knowing. It’s really all about creativity and putting something out there that’s different and unique.”
Khalsa said shaking things up from the usual approach is what keeps things fun and innovative, though beers like the witbier and a hazy IPA will keep a few of the more standard modern beer drinkers happy.
“It’s something different for Albuquerque,” he said. “I feel we might finally be in a place where a lager house is cool, but not a traditional lager house. We’ll do some traditional styles, but really none of our stuff is traditional at all.”
A little something different is just fine these days amid a sea of breweries in Albuquerque. A big thanks to Ram for the interview, beer samples, and tour of the production area.
Stop on by The Craftroom and check out the first four Late Shift beers the next time you are in the area, or you just want to grab a beer alongside your cider-loving friend(s). Just watch out for the Liverpool fans on the weekends, they have taken over a corner of the place, and you might be required to sing a song or two with them.
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This article needs more Liverpool in it. And more pictures of Liverpool gear. It makes beer better. It’s scientifically proven.