It was the late summer the last time I drove out to Cedar Crest to talk to Rumor Brewing owner/brewer Patrick Johnson about the name change from Ale Republic. He felt it was even more recent than that, as time is flying again for everyone in the East Mountains.
“I think things seem to be going really well,” he said. “We’re kind of gearing up for spring and summertime. We’re really excited about doing music every weekend. We’re going to continue doing Sundays for the moment and once the summer kicks in we’ll probably do Saturdays and Sundays. We’re usually doing solo artists, some small bands.”
The musicians were indeed back on the outdoor stage over this past weekend, and those events should continue as the weather allows.
Back behind the scenes, changes have also be afoot. Rumor is now using a 7-barrel brewing system, with its old 3-barrel brewhouse having been sold to the new Anarchy Brewing in Durango.
“There’s been some growth challenges associated with that that I’ve almost completely solved,” Johnson said. “The last challenge is we don’t have a heating system in the brewhouse for a couple reasons. Our hot liquor tank is the heat source. If there’s a problem where our water is out or somebody forgets to leave it on, it gets really cold in there, so everything ferments really slowly. That’s our latest challenge.”
Rumor did solve a past issue, as Johnson said they now have a purified water system up and running. He took advantage of the slower winter months to check plenty of things off the proverbial to-do list.
“Winter is still pretty stressful, especially with COVID,” Johnson said. “Winters are getting less stressful. I kept full staff, and spending money on development. I could have cut staff and not done anything, and been less stressed, but I feel it’s a good position to be in where you can maintain your operation completely and make it through the winter. The spring and summer should be really fun.”
The aforementioned issues with heating in the brewhouse building, combined with the colder temperatures outside, have left the brewery without as many beers on tap right now due to slower fermenting times. However, Bug Juice, the popular Berliner weisse, is back on tap, and there should be a new pilsner and an India pale lager due out soon. The supply chain issues have not been a major problem due to the size of the operation.
“We’re pretty nimble, so we adapt pretty easily,” Johnson said. “The nice thing about our operation here is it’s a little bit less formal. Oh, sorry, we don’t have that (on tap), and people don’t really care. It’s challenging having a full kitchen, though. It’s nice that we’re so small if we’re out of a hop we can just change to a different hop.”
When assistant brewer Robert Garcia was low on specialty grain for a new batch of Red Mountain Red, Johnson just drove over to Southwest Grape and Grain and purchased a bag of malt that was more than enough to suffice.
Having an assistant has helped Johnson, who in the past was not able to do much in the way of experiments with yeast and hops as he had to put his focus into making sure the regular beers kept flowing.
“(Garcia) started at the CNM program this spring,” Johnson said. “I’m training him up to be the brewer along with me. I think one day he might go start his own thing, but we’ll see. It’s a fun partner to have around here. But, as he becomes more able to do beer projects, like grinding grain, that gives me more time to do experiments. I’m doing yeast experiments. I’ve got a couple pils experiments in the walk-in that I need to keg up. Dry hopping experiments, (using) different fruits, that kind of thing.
“Being small, it’s easy to do that sort of thing, but I haven’t had time to do that until now. Going into the summer, I have to come up with a name for it, but the brewer experimental lab or something like that. Instead of getting one pint, you get two half pints. Here’s pils one and pils two, which did you like.”
This also frees up Johnson to work on some events they can host, or even heading out to festivals again.
“I’m building a beer trailer, which will be a completely integrated, fully functioning festival operation,” Johnson said. “The hatches will open up, it will have a draft system, the inside will be refrigerated, so you can hook up to electricity or a generator, but it will be insulated so you may not even need that. I’m trying to design it where it has a glass washing space in it, so you don’t have to rely on plastic cups. The idea is to park the thing, open up, and it’s a fully mobile bar. Once we have that thing built it will be easy to do lots of festivals.”
Other possibilities for Rumor might including hosting bicycle races, working with the owners of a snowshoe event (that would be next January), and they are looking to team up with the local music organizing team, Chatter, on summertime concerts.
Of course, being a brewery, the primary focus this year is on the beer itself.
“The big push this year is building out our final brewhouse,” Johnson said. “The system we have right now is an extremely manual, 7-barrel basic system. I would love to find a skid-mounted, integrated 7- or 10-barrel brewhouse. That’s what I’m in the market for. I’ll keep an eye out for the next however long. The goal is to be able to use it to where we can make enough beer that’s consistent, not hazy when we don’t want it to be hazy, and build out brewhouse where it’s really thought out. I’m considering hiring an architect. A second beer garden with maybe a whole bar out there. That’s the three-year goal, so start chipping away at that. And, a new milling room.”
All in all, Rumor has overcome its fair share of bumps in the road since last year, but things are looking up in the East Mountains.
“I feel like we’ve hit a groove, and we’re able to settle in and rock out some good beer and good times,” Johnson said.
A big thanks to Patrick for the interview, the pizza, and the beer. We look forward to some chill times in the mountains this summer.
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