Bathtub Row flourishes in 2022 and expands production in 2023

BRB head brewer David Seymour pressing local wine grapes for their Wine Grape Wild Ale. (All photos courtesy of Bathtub Row)

Bathtub Row Brewing (BRB or “The Tub”) in Los Alamos bounced back from the COVID downturn and had an excellent 2022 from a sales perspective. To keep things moving ahead, they have big plans for 2023 that are already underway. In order to get the scoop on past and future events for our Look Back/Look Ahead Series, I conducted an e-mail-based interview with their head brewer David Seymour, and assistant general manager Rob Hipwood. (The plan was to do the interview in person, but I have had what seems like an unending string of illnesses this winter, so we’re having a bit of a flashback to COVID protocols.)

DSBC: Ever since things cratered in 2020-21, it feels like things have been gradually returning to normal. Would you say that business at BRB in 2022 was back to pre-COVID levels? Aside from COVID, it’s always seemed like the business has been healthy financially. How are things looking now? Has inflation and the prices of supplies caused any heartburn for you?

David: Yes, this past year our brewery production and sales returned to pre-pandemic levels, plus some growth. It was very difficult to keep up with demand, actually, which is the justification for our long overdue brewery expansion.

The cost of raw materials has indeed increased, as everyone knows, but we’ve only raised prices slightly and tried to make up the difference by improving efficiencies in all areas. We’re proud to say our beer prices are lower than almost anywhere, especially when you consider the $1 off for co-op members.

Rob: 2023 was actually a record year for us, by nearly $60,000. We had five months with the best sales numbers in our history (and four additional months with second-best numbers), including our single highest month ever (August).

DSBC: David has now been working at the Tub for a few years, and brought a great deal of expertise and scientific rigor to the brewing process. How are you feeling about the job and living in NM?

David: As for the job, I’ve really enjoyed enhancing our beer program and building creative connections with local people, cultures, and storied ingredients. It was a good move for my family; we’re thankful for the opportunity to relocate to New Mexico. Our daughter even transferred from UW-Madison to UNM-Albuquerque. She’s thriving and we feel lucky to spend more time together. Quick shout-out — Edyth tends bar at Boxing Bear Bridges on Tramway, tell her hi and tip big!

Here is Adam, formerly of Steel Bender and this blog, taking gravity readings.

DSBC: Have there been any noteworthy changes in staff? Anyone you’d like to call special attention to? We know you’ve hired Adam Auden, a friend and one-time writer for this blog, to help out.

David: Yes, Adam came to us from Steel Bender Brewyard, and he’s already proven himself valuable beyond description. He is an incredibly multi-talented employee AND all-around great hang. He’s quickly becoming an accomplished brewer, one to watch, even taking the lead on a few punny recipes such as Hop Tart Sour IPA and Ctrl-Alt-Repeat. He’s currently organizing beer education classes for our bartenders, which they’re really excited about.

Rob: Our front of the house staff is also fantastic. With a mixture of seasoned veterans plus some new hires, both year around and seasonal, our team is working together exceptionally well. As we like to say, “best staff ever!” We are constantly thankful to their dedication to Bathtub Row Brewing. 

AAA employees Albert, Aaron, and Adam at your service

DSBC: We always like to ask about beer styles and selections. What did you emphasize in 2022 and what do you plan for 2023? Are customer tastes evolving? Will you be bottling any special brews?

David: We’ve made ongoing improvements to the quality and consistency of core favorites like Hoppenheimer IPA, Irish Goodbye Stout, Ranch School Rustic Ale, and Witrock. Some brand-new beers which have become big successes are New Mexi Lager, Caldera Kölsch, Jemez Hazy IPA, Prometheus Pilsner, and Prickly Pear Sour. Several of our rotating selections were big hits too: Dortmunder Lager, Belgian Golden Strong, Munich Dunkel Lager, Dark Matter Coffee Mild, Ukrainian Grechka, okTUBerfest, Ullr Fest Sahti, Owl Peak Blue Corn Lager, Los Luceros Apple Ale, Katzman Apfelbier, New Mexico Red Chile Stout, 1907 Henley’s Holiday Scotch Beer. We’ll continue to offer classic brews and delicious one-offs onsite and to-go with cool, resealable “crowlers.”

Some of the female staff took a brewery tour trip to SW Colorado; here they’re visiting Smugglers Union in Telluride.

DSBC: The big news for 2023 is that you have some serious new equipment coming in. Can you describe it and what it will mean for you and the customers?

David: It’s true, it’s really happening! We are in the midst of a major expansion to more than double our brewing capacity. We purchased an awesome semi-automated, electric, and direct-fired 7-barrel brewhouse with motorized rakes, a grain crusher and huge grist case, dual-stage heat exchanger, multiple new double-size fermenters and serving vessels, and a giant new glycol chiller to match. We had to excavate the broken concrete floor, which means we can get it exactly right this time with all stainless-steel trench drains and debris traps, thick high-PSI reinforced concrete, and a heavy-duty industrial epoxy protective coating. We massively increased the incoming water pressure and flowrate, upgraded electrical service, increased glycol loops, and installed a new cellar management control panel.

We brewed as much as we could fit into tanks before shutting down production, but the only house tap left is a tasty Australian Sparkling Ale. The rest are carefully curated brews from our friends at Bosque, Boxing Bear, Hidden Mountain, Red River, Rowley Farmhouse, Second Street, and others. Some familiar, some rare. Come to peek at our construction, stay for the great guest taps!

All that construction means no beer for a while, alas.
The entire floor had to be replaced to accommodate the new brewhouse and equipment.

DSBC: It seems like you’ve made the most of your available outdoor space by now, which is a fabulous area. Do you have any plans for additional remodeling indoors or out? I recall that an outdoor serving station was in the works.

David: From a customer point of view, one of the most exciting parts of the project is a new shipping container bar facing into the “back forty” outdoor biergarten. We are installing line splitters in our cold room and an 8-tap glycol-chilled trunk line all the way to the outside bar. So you’ll be able to order the exact same beer lineup out there without going back inside to wait in line.

Rob: We’re thrilled about the addition of our outside bar and the convenience it’ll bring for our customers, particularly on our busiest nights during the late spring, summer, and early fall. It’ll be a little trial and error figuring out best practices, but it’s an exciting addition to our space.

A recent selection of guest drafts available as construction work continues at The Tub.

DSBC: Are you or do you plan to offer your own food options? (There are restaurants nearby, so people stopping in certainly won’t go hungry.)

David: Yes, that’s in the works, stay tuned. The container bar has two large windows, so we hope to eventually offer food, too, from the other window. Meanwhile, people are welcome to bring their own food, carry-out from neighboring restaurants, or even arrange delivery to our bar. We sometimes have food pop-ups such as Argentine Empanadas, Muy Salsas, Owl Peak Farms, and the local Food Co-op. There are also some great food trucks which park here periodically.

Rob: Having food available in the back is more of a long-term goal. Our priority is having the second serving station ready to go this spring and summer. Having our own food is much more complicated, but we’ll continue to welcome outside food vendors as available.

DSBC: Will you be participating in any festivals or competitions? I ask after having attended Winterbrew in Santa Fe, which was sold out and great fun. Los Alamos has its own local events that you cater, including major ones like ULLR Fest, so that probably takes up a lot of your time.

David: Yes, we participate in all NM Brewers Guild events like the IPA Challenge, and we’re hosting the Stout Invitational again this year on March 11. I think we’re one of the only non-Albuquerque breweries invited to Sidetrack’s Alley Cask Fest, which we really love. We pour at countless local concerts, live theater, ScienceFest, Oktoberfest, etc. And, as you said, we co-sponsor beer events at the Pajarito Ski Area like SummerFest, Beer & Bands, Ullr Fest. We took a break from submitting our brews to national and international judged competitions, but as soon as the new brewhouse is all dialed-in, we’ll definitely resume putting medals on the wall.

DSBC: The timing of this interview usually occurs just before the Stout Invitational, held at The Tub every year. This is a great opportunity to give a sneak preview. Will the event be happening in 2023? Any details you’d like to share?

David: We’re thrilled to host the 2023 Stout Invitational on March 11, tickets are $35 and on sale now. Check-out our social media, as well as the New Mexico Brewers Guild. Our brewery build will not be completed in time, but we’re brewing a collaboration at Sobremesa for our entry, and will be joined by last year’s champion La Cumbre Brewing Company, and Blü Dragonfly Brewing, Boxing Bear Brewing Company, Flix Brewhouse (our former head brewer Brandon Venaglia), Gravity Bound Brewing, Harmon Lane Brewing, Hidden Mountain Brewing, Milton’s Brewing Company, Piedra Blanca Brewing Company, Red River Brewing Company, Roosevelt Brewing Company, Rowley Farmhouse Ales, Steel Bender Brewyard, Thirsty Eye Brewing Company, (and) Truth or Consequences Brewing Company.

DSBC: Any final thoughts on 2022 and 2023 that you’d like to mention?

David: We are truly taking this little corner brewpub to the next level, check in often to see what we’re up to. On a personal note, project management is fun but Adam and I CANNOT WAIT to get back to brewing delicious beer to share with you all. Cheers!

Some of the BRB team on the summit of Mt. Wheeler, doing some high-elevation advertising.

A big thanks to David and Rob for graciously agreeing to write up all of their thoughts and send over the included photos.

Bathtub Row is a bit out of the way for many of our readers, but if you want to take a fun day trip and do some skiing or hiking in the picturesque Jemez Mountains, a trip to Los Alamos and BRB (as well as Boese’s Los Alamos location) is well worth the drive.


— Reid

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