New Sidetrack head brewer paid his dues at Chama River and Steel Bender

After seven combined years with Steel Bender and Chama River before that, Cordell Rincon is running a brewhouse for the first time, utilizing his years of “education” working with some of the best brewers in town.

After seven years in the trenches, so to speak, Cordell Rincon is finally getting his own command.

Rincon has taken the reins at Sidetrack Brewing, succeeding David Kimbell. I caught up with Rincon this week before the brewery opened for the day.

“Oh, it’s great (here),” he said. “I always told myself that if I ‘retired’ from production (brewing), it would definitely be at this place. I got lucky with Kimbell leaving. It was a cool blessing.”

Hitting the rewind button, the lifelong Rio Rancho resident was just bussing tables at Chama River when then-head brewer Zach Guilmette convinced Rincon to move to the back of the house. Four months later, Guilmette returned to Canteen, while Andrew Krosche moved over from Ponderosa.

“I only unfortunately worked with him for like four months,” Rincon said. “But, then (I worked with) Andrew for the next year-and-a-half until they ‘Bennigan’s’-ed everybody. I went out for lunch and came back in and the (TV) news was already there.”

While Chama River closed its doors, Rincon was soon able to find another job at a new brewery. He was one of the first employees hired by Bob Haggerty at Steel Bender.

“Steel Bender was definitely awesome,” Rincon said. “That was fun. It was right at the beginning of the craziness. I got to learn a lot from Bob.”

Rincon said learned a lot from the trio of Guilmette, Haggerty, and Krosche (who is now the head brewer at Marble’s downtown production brewery). Each of them had their own way of doing things.

“Crazy different! (But) it really helped,” Rincon said. “It was completely different perspectives. They all have different, wide backgrounds, too. It was great to see everybody do different things and put it all together. I guess that’s what you hope from that. They’re all excellent brewers, too.”

Cordell did love his time at Steel Bender, especially when they got their pilot brewing system for experimenting.

Each of his previous head brewers was really into experimenting with a wide variety of beer styles, so Rincon said he aims to do the same at Sidetrack, but with one major built-in advantage that none of the others had at their disposal.

“I want to be able to experiment with crazy different varieties, (so) it’s cool that they have a cask program here with the cask pumps,” he said. “I don’t know if anyone else does. I love casks, so it’s cool be able to have those here. You can experiment with our house beers on cask. It should be fun.”

Sidetrack’s regulars should not be afraid that the beer lineup is suddenly going to change overnight. Much like Kimbell before him, Rincon said he plans to keep the mainstays on at almost all times, while rotating a number of seasonal and specialty ales and lagers.

“Luckily, it seems like there’s only about three house beers, so I have seven taps to be able to play with,” Rincon said. “I like where the house beers are at, so I’ll probably keep them (the same). It’s awesome to have seven taps to play with. They have two outside fermenters now. We went from four to six. We have two Oktoberfests that have been chilling there for two months. Hopefully we can use those for lagers.”

While Steel Bender has long advertised itself as a neighborhood pub, Rincon said the pace there and the pace at Sidetrack are completely different. Both have their place in the wider beer world, but it can be nice to take it a little slower sometimes.

“It’s the ultimate learning place,” Rincon said. “Steel Bender was as well, but it’s just too fast (paced). We brewed a double IPA, and I was like, we had a double on? We brewed it and sold out of it before I realized it.”

Rincon said he enjoyed working for the Chants at Steel Bender, but he has quickly come to appreciate Sidetrack owners Dan Herr and Anne O’Neil.

“Dan and Anne are awesome, and Dan is Mr. Fix-It,” Rincon said. “I’m already learning some stuff from him already. They’re great. They’ve been more than nice this whole time, very supportive, very good people.”

Herr said he quickly realized Rincon would be the perfect fit for the job.

“I met Cordell for the first time when he interviewed for the position I was impressed with his calm, confident disposition, and knowledge and enthusiasm about brewing,” Herr said. “Further talks with Zach and Bob backed up the first impression — Cordell is a great fit for our operation where one person has to know and do everything associated with beer production, brewery maintenance, and everything else associated with a small pub/taproom. We are grateful and excited to have him as part of our team and looking forward to continuing to provide great beer at Sidetrack!”

Rincon has also learned that the challenge of taking charge at a brewery extends far beyond just having the final decision on what to beers to make.

“I took up a couple of my days just figuring out the logistics of planning, ordering, not spending too much, and having room for it,” he said. “Those were the four things I’ve been hung up on. … Luckily, Dan was also the first brewer here, so any question I have, he’s more than knowledgeable about it. That’s probably the biggest perk, plus he’s also a handyman.”

We can all agree that Rincon has more than earned this opportunity after his time at Chama River and Steel Bender. It is always nice to see a good person rewarded for hard work, so Sidetrack will be in great hands going forward.

A big thanks to Cordell for the interview, and the pint of the Medusa Fresh-Hop Pale Ale, which is available for a limited time. We look forward to trying that Oktoberfest next.

Keep supporting local!

— Stoutmeister

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