JUNO Brewery and Cafe has been busy of late.
Oh, sure, there are the crowds coming in for the many events they have scheduled, but a lot of the work is actually going on several miles to the east on the other side of the Sandia Mountains.
I caught up with co-owner Jason Marks, who had a short window this past Friday before a private event kicked off, to talk about all things JUNO for our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series.
“We’re doing well,” Marks said. “The last few months we’ve had the best winter we’ve (ever) had. Even going back to the Dialogue days, we figured out how to get people in here in the winter, which always seemed to be a challenge for breweries.”
From salsa lessons to comedy acts to music nights of all different genres, JUNO has become a major events hub in Wells Park.
“Yeah, I think we just figured out some great events to have that bring people in,” Marks said. “In the summertime, people want to sit outside and have a beer. In the wintertime, you have to pull them in. At least for now, we’ve solved that puzzle. But, past results don’t guarantee (future) success.”
With that aspect of the business stabilized for now, Marks and his team have been working hard to ready their first offsite taproom for a summer opening.
“The big news is we’re opening a taproom in Edgewood, and that’s been on the agenda since we opened,” he said. “It’s actually going to happen now. We had some legal problems — not with the city, the city has been great — and we’ve got our license ready to go as soon as we finish the construction. We’re planning on mid-June. As a result of the legal dispute that we had with the landlord, we ended up taking control of the whole building.”
Marks said the taproom will be located off Exit 187, which is the main freeway access point for Edgewood. It will be located across the street from Rich Ford, and within walking distance of Pizza Barn, arguably the most notable landmark in Edgewood visible from the freeway.
“We’ve got a bar side and then we’re going to have a separate dining room and event space,” Marks said. “We’re going to have a full kitchen out there. It’s going to be broader (menu-wise) than here. Edgewood is really dying for some dining alternatives. They’re dying for a brewery experience and a bar experience. The local people out there who want to support us are looking forward to that.”
There will also be a patio, Marks added.
With a second location on deck, Marks and his team also made the decision last year to hire a full-time brewer for JUNO.
“For the first year we were using a lot of contract brewers,” he said. “Then we wound up hiring a really great brewer part time, but he wound up getting a full-time position. We realized we needed to hire someone full-time.”
In came Justin Sapp, formerly of Turtle Mountain, and Bathtub Row before that.
“Justin has been brewing for us since August,” Marks said. “We’ve got stability on the brewhouse, finally. One of Justin’s real successes has been our new hazy.”
Juicebox Hazy IPA has indeed become a big hit at JUNO, earning its spot on the permanent beer menu.
“What makes that work is the yeast,” Marks said. “We’re using Kveik Hornindal. I don’t know if this is the second or third different hazy, this is not the first batch of this one, but I was wanting to try those (different) yeast and we went to another brewery, and I wasn’t that impressed. The guy started talking about Kveik and I tried the beer, and oh, this really works. We adapted our recipe to the Kveik. It’s just amazing stuff.”
Just about any Kveik yeast strain will cut down on fermentation time, but Marks said it is the flavor that it imparts, along with the ability to keep it hazy, that makes it work.
“In terms of the new stuff, that’s the one that I’m excited about,” Marks said. “You’ve had our West Coast IPA, that’s the same. It’s pretty dialed in, it’s been pretty popular. The 505 (Lager) remains the most popular. This Vienna, though, is selling a lot. We’ve got a lot of people that like beer, but they’re not that into hops. We’ve got the Dialogue Raspberry Sour back on tap. Dialogue was a sour brewery, a lot of people came in to drink their sours. It sells OK, but it’s not dominant like it used to be. I don’t think sours are that popular these days.”
Marks also showed off the renovated room at the south end of JUNO, which has now become their indoor event space for when it is too cold to use the spacious patio on the west side of the building.
Overall, things are running smoothly and the vibe is good at 1501 First St NW, and there is hope that it will soon extend all the way to Edgewood.
“That’s where we’re at,” Marks said. “The big news is Edgewood. We’ve got some other potential taprooms that we’re thinking of. We’re having fun, that’s what we’re here for. I mentioned to you last time, we thought we were starting a business, but we’re actually building a community.”
A big thanks to Jason for squeezing me in on Friday when our schedules aligned. We look forward to checking out the Edgewood taproom when it opens this summer.
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