Palmer Brewery increases production to keep forward momentum going

Owner/brewer Rob Palmer has found his groove again running his namesake brewery.

After leaving the last few Palmer Brewery and Cider House entries to other Crew writers, it was my turn to head over for our Look Back/Look Ahead Series and catch up with one of the good guys in the industry.

Owner/brewer Rob Palmer greeted me with a handshake and a pour of his Barrel-Aged Cockness Monster, a 13-percent ABV Scotch ale. Now that is how you get your day off to a good start.

“It was good,” Palmer said of 2022. “Coming back from the pandemic and all the shutdowns and stuff, it was really nice to be (fully) open. We got to see all of the regulars, the new customers, and that kind of stuff. Our Old Town location has really started going for us in 2022. So that was real nice.”

The last time any of us talked with Rob, he was a bit stressed trying to churn out enough beer to not only keep the original location’s taps flowing, but now Old Town and the Gate City Craft Bar in Raton. Now he is feeling much more at peace thanks to some additions.

“Yeah, we bought some more fermenters and brite tanks and (equipment),” he said. “We upped production. It’s still just me back there, but that’s kind of how I like it. I enjoy being back there. That’s the part of the business I love, just making beer.”

It was the customer demand for a certain genre of beers that truly necessitated the purchases.

“That’s really helped, just tank space, because our best sellers are normally our lagers,” Palmer said. “That’s what I want to drink, (so) I can understand why they’re popular. They just take more tank time, so if you have the tank space, it’s awesome. It makes for a good brew day, it’s half the grain, half the lifting. We’re fully manual back there, I push pumps and hoses. We don’t have any hard piping. I walk up the ladder and dump it in the mash tun.”

Tank space, saving the lower backs of brewers, one batch at a time.

As for the two Albuquerque locations, the tastes of the customers can differ, though that is mainly due to the differences in the customers themselves.

“Here, this neighborhood, the brewing and distilling district is more working class, kind of industrial-style neighborhood,” Palmer said. “We see a lot of the same people every day. They get off work, they come over and have a beer, then they go home. Old Town is more touristy. We’re a little fancier over there. Here, the bartenders have to wear clothes, down there they have to wear fancier clothes.”

Things are going well at the original location, as well as in Old Town and up in Raton.

Things are also good up at Gate City, winter weather notwithstanding.

“That’s the only problem with Raton is it’s kind of up there, a six-hour roundtrip,” Palmer said. “My business partner, Brian (Langwell, of Left Turn Distilling), does most of the runs, but when I do, I’ll try to do some fishing on the way back, make it worthwhile, instead of just dropping off some beer and driving back.”

In addition to running his own brewery, Palmer has also taken on the role of president of the board of directors for the New Mexico Brewers Guild.

“It’s my last year on the Guild (board),” he said. “It will be my fourth year. After this year, I have to take a year off, and then I can run again. I’m sure I’ll still be involved with all the Guild stuff, helping out. I think the Guild does a great service for our brewing community. We’ve got a new executive director (Ebbie Edmonston) this year, she’s doing a great job. It’s going to be a good year for the Guild.”

Things already got off to a good start for the Guild in 2023 with a packed event in Santa Fe back on January 20.

“We just did WinterBrew up in Santa Fe,” Palmer said. “It was sold out, it was at capacity, everyone had a great time. I think people are definitely coming out a lot more.”

Other events are on the way, from the Stout Invitational in Los Alamos on March 11, the golf tournament on May 22, and the IPA Challenge later in the summer. Palmer said some other events that the Guild has run in the past will return, and new events are also in the works.

Of course, the Guild is not just about events, it is also about advocating for the brewing industry, and with the current 60-day legislative session going on in Santa Fe, Palmer, Edmonston, and other board members are keeping a close eye on things.

“Nothing to freak out about yet,” Palmer said. “That can change daily. There’s a couple bills we’re kind of keeping our eyes on.”

Seriously, do not sleep on the Barrel-Aged Cockness Monster.

Overall, things are going good for the brewery, and the Guild, and it has Rob feeling optimistic for the rest of 2023.

“Just try to keep everything moving smoothly, try to come out with some new beers and new spirits,” he said. “We’re about a year out from getting bourbon back. It’s a minimum of two years in new oak. The distilling side is killing it. Chris (Medina) is doing a great job.

“Our goal at this point is keep the forward momentum going, keep up with production and all of that fun stuff.”

Sounds like a great plan to all of us. A big thanks to Rob for the interview and the beer, of course. It is a might bit tasty, so head on over to try some if you have not already. Just be mindful of that ABV.

Keep supporting local!

— Stoutmeister

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