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The science theme is the defining trait of the new Brew Lab 101 in Rio Rancho.

On July 4, I stopped in to try the beer at Beer Lab 101 at 3301 Southern Blvd. SE in Rio Rancho. Immediately upon walking in, patrons will notice the science theme and the polished tap room.

Overall, this is a great addition to the Rio Rancho beer scene, having softly opened in early June after a long process to get to that point. Now there are three breweries within just a few blocks of each other on Southern, with Turtle Mountain and 1933 Brewing just a few blocks to the east.

The light fixture is made in part from an old beaker.

The servers were very friendly, and were happy to let me taste the three Beer Lab 101 beers and two ciders they had they had that day. There are also guest taps, but I was definitely there to taste their beer. Below is what I had.

  • Newton’s Apple Cider and Cherry Bomb Cider — I liked the cherry more than the apple, because there was an abundance of tart cherry flavor, giving it a super fresh taste. I felt both ciders were still just a touch on the watery side.
  • The Bull IPA — Not overly hoppy, but solid. This is what I ordered for my pint.
  • Sassy Brunette Amber — More complex than typical ambers, it feels more like a slightly hoppy red.
  • Event Horizon Oatmeal Stout — Very light mouthfeel, easy drinking. On such a hot day, though, I went for the IPA.

The brewing equipment is not in use quite yet, but patrons will be able to see the brewing team in action soon.

Beer Lab 101 is aiming for eight on tap, the five house styles, and three seasonals. The next beer they are hoping to put on tap is a hazy IPA. They are not yet brewing on their in-house equipment because they are still tweaking some of the engineering. They are contracting right now with Rio Bravo, but are hoping to switch over very soon.

The taproom does not serve food, but they are working with food trucks and there are several restaurants in close proximity that will deliver over to the taproom.

The science theme really is everywhere inside.

It’s the attention to detail in the taproom that is worth mentioning. The science theme is everywhere. The sample glasses are the cutest little beakers ever, and the wine decanters are a different style of beaker (flask). Also, the old-fashioned filament-design light bulbs rest inside large flask beakers. It is seriously pretty freaking adorable. The back of the shirts the servers were wearing say, “No science no beer.” That just about sums it up.

Cheers to science!

— AmyO

Enchanted Circle is already building out a patio area outside of the new taproom.

During my brief first visit for one pint during their opening week, I was unable to try any of Enchanted Circle’s food, due to the City of Albuquerque neglecting to supply the green sticker (even though the staff said that the City said they would have it in time for the opening) to the first off-site taproom for the Angel Fire brewery. I went back over the weekend to try some of the menu items as well as more of the beer.

One change was already immediately evident as Dave and I pulled into the parking lot on the northwest corner of Osuna and San Mateo. It was clear they were in the midst of building a patio out in front of the building. It was good, and surprising, to see even more progress so soon after their opening.

I felt the same pleasant vibe walking in there the second time as I did the first. They honestly have done an amazing job transforming the space, so much so that it is easy to forget you are in a strip mall. Dark wood, Tiffany-style table lamps on the large bar, and some barrel tables contribute to an upscale pub feel.

Both times that we visited, we sat at the bar and had the same wonderfully exceptional service from our bartender. Also both times, owners Steve and Shelley Larson were on-site and pleasantly hands-on. I asked Steve about the patio and he said even though it looks like they just started cutting out the space, they hope to have it open within two weeks! It will be covered with fabric and have misters, so it should be a cool spot to hang out with your pup, even in the summer. Steve and Shelley are animal lovers, and they wanted a dog-friendly option for their customers.

One thing to be prepared for upon arrival: an overwhelming number of beers to choose from. Enchanted Circle continues to brew at their original location in Angel Fire and transport it to Albuquerque, up to 35 kegs at a time in a van. They have a ton of equipment up there, a 20-barrel system with 400 barrels in process, and motivated brewers. A big reason the Larsons wanted to open a taproom in Albuquerque is to move the huge amount of beer they were producing. They just can’t move the quantity in Angel Fire.

There were more than 20 of their own beers of many styles on tap during my visit, and a couple of guest taps. Steve was extremely generous with the samples, meaning we tried a lot. With that quantity, I expected some to have off-flavors, but I didn’t find any. Steve said that one of the more unusual beers on tap (a plum sour that was cloudy and creamy) is one of their more popular styles in the Albuquerque taproom. This would never be the case up in Angel Fire, where they constantly have to run big batches of both their pilsner and lager. In fact, just after we arrived, the first person who sat next to us ordered a pint of this plum sour. While it’s true that there are no over-the-top hop bombs, there are a few IPAs. And, if you can’t find a style of beer you like here, well, maybe you just don’t like beer.

The food menu, in contrast, is concise, but well thought-out in terms of a variety of options. There are appetizers, a few salads, several burgers, sandwiches, fish and chips, and pot pies. Weeknights feature a different dinner special each night. We ordered a pulled pork sandwich with a side salad, and a gyro with fries to try and get a feel for how some of their beers paired with different menu items. Shelly also brought us a complimentary small sample of the artichoke appetizer to try. We finished with a heaping serving of the Bourbon Bread Pudding. Yes, I had to take home half of my food!

Our writers were gifted with just a few beers to sample.

Dave and I both chose the Juicy Pale Ale #1 for our pint to start off. Some of our other favorites from the samples were the Lemon Shandy (way, way too easy to drink, especially for that upcoming patio!), Nice Day IPA, Glory Hole IPA (with food), Raspberry Nubbin Fruit Lager, Shred-It Red, and the Whiskey Barrel Belgian Quad. We only learned after ordering it that the Juicy Pale Ale #1 is the first beer they have brewed with hops extract. They are going to try a series of it to determine the best version.

As far as what paired best with our food, the Raspberry Nubbin and the 70 Chilling (smoked) Scottish Ale both paired differently, but equally well, with the pulled pork. The Hells Bells Helles Lager unsurprisingly took the top spot with the gyro. The Glory Hole IPA was the right match for the artichoke dip, and we much preferred the Glory Hole with food than without. And, finally, the Whiskey Barrel Belgian Quad was the only beer that could stand up to the sweetness and richness of the bread pudding. Well, except strangely for our Juicy Pale Ale; that sort of worked in a weird way also, just not as good as the quad. Dave said that eating the bread pudding with the quad totally tricked his brain into thinking that the quad tasted like a port wine. He was honestly kind of blown away by that.

There were some small, nitpicky things with the food that I am sure will get worked out. They were out of several things we wanted due to a mix up with the supplier. Next time, I would ask for a small side of extra BBQ sauce for the pulled pork. It was a good sauce, and it was only spread on top. Now, the pork was totally flavorful and juicy enough without the sauce, but I like my sauce, so that’s probably just my preference! And, the presentation could be tightened up a bit. I did only see one person working in the kitchen, and it’s a pretty big taproom, so this might be why. It was mostly noticeable with the gyro; it was a bit messy. The tzatziki was haphazard, and the small amount of lettuce was placed between the meat and the pita, so it got really hot and wilted. It would look better and retain more integrity if it was placed on top, but again, that’s some minor and hopefully constructive nitpicking.

I want to return for a weekday happy hour in hopefully a couple of weeks to try the Juicy #2. I am also looking forward to a unique appetizer that is quite the deal during happy hour — a smoked salmon spread, with toasted mini bagels and toppings. I am a sucker for happy hour offerings that are different from the norm. Now, which of those 20-plus beers will be the one that goes best with the smoked salmon?

Cheers

— AmyO

There will soon be more Hops in the Village

Posted: May 21, 2019 by amyotravel in Taproom Preview
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The future home of Hops Brewery’s Los Ranchos taproom, as teased by the brewery on Facebook.

Savvy searchers may know that Hops Brewery in Nob Hill is actually incorporated as Los Ranchos Brewing, LLC. There is a good reason for that, as Hops Brewery is finally opening a long-awaited taproom in the Village of Los Ranchos. This is a plan that has been about five years in the making.

I tracked down Jim Shull, co-owner, to ask him for some details. The taproom will be on North Fourth Street and should open sometime in June, hopefully earlier in the month. (We were asked not to share the specific address as to not bother their neighbors.) This is where they live and it will be great for them to have a neighborhood-style taproom.

It will have a “smaller bar” feel, so Jim said it will be a totally different feel from the massive space of the nearby Steel Bender Brewyard. Perhaps one of the best parts about this location is the availability of patios. The front patio should open right away, or soon after the taproom opens. There is additional room to expand and have a back patio. The taproom space also backs up to the irrigation canal trail, making it a great destination for bicyclists.

The size of the space is approximately 2,500 square feet. The seating will be about the same capacity as the location in Nob Hill, Jim said. The kitchen will have a smaller footprint, however, and they hope to rely mostly on food trucks, supplementing them with an abbreviated menu from the Nob Hill location.

The tap handles are already in place. (Photo courtesy of Hops Brewery)

The total number of taps will be 20, which will breakdown in a 50/50 split between their own beers and other local taps. Because, Jim said, there are good beers all around this town; they are not afraid to put on guest taps. It seems to work for them at the location on Central.

This will be a hop, skip, and a jump — or super quick bike ride — from my neighborhood nearby. Welcome to the Village, Hops. Or, I guess, welcome home.

Cheers!

— AmyO

The visually stunning Cloudcroft Brewing was one of several that AmyO visited on her trip south.

Last September, my other half and I thought a quick overnight road trip was in order. We ventured up north to visit some northern New Mexico breweries we had not been to. At that time, we were trying to decide whether to do a northern or a southern route. The time of year pulled us north, then, so it was now time for us to head back out to venture to a few breweries down south.

DISCLAIMER: In the story for the northern tour, I stated that we knew we would not be able to get to everything in the time we had, and the distance we would need to cover. Yet, several readers still commented on how we “missed” one brewery or another. We didn’t miss them. Either they weren’t open when we were in that area, they took us too far off our route, or we just couldn’t fit them in and get where we needed to be in a reasonable amount of time. So, I am going to add a disclaimer here and hopefully people will read it. On this trip we did not go to Las Cruces, because that should be its own trip. We also did not make it to Artesia or Carlsbad because I have already covered The Wellhead in Artesia, the new Hopscotch Brewing north of Artesia is not open on Sundays, Guadalupe Mountain in Carlsbad is also closed on Sundays, and Milton’s in Carlsbad does not open until 2 p.m. on Sundays. For these reasons, and the fact that hotel prices were flat out exorbitant in Carlsbad/Artesia, we altered our originally intended route to instead head back north from Roswell to Clovis and Portales, before returning to ABQ Sunday evening.

We began our journey Friday late afternoon, heading south on I-25, making our first stop at Owl Cafe in San Antonio for a quick break before heading on to Truth or Consequences. FYI, though they make a good burger at the Owl, they sadly have no craft beer game at all. Like zero.

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Lava Rock’s own beer begins to flow at long last

Posted: April 17, 2019 by amyotravel in News
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Lava Rock has started brewing on a full-size system at long last.

I very rarely get to the west side of town, so after an overnight stay at Route 66 Casino Hotel for my birthday, I made a point to quickly swing by Lava Rock Brewing Company at 2200 Unser Blvd.

The Crew had heard that they are now brewing their own beer on a full-size brewhouse after the first system purchased before opening was rejected by the City of Albuquerque. Therefore, I thought I should pop in on the way to Flix Brewhouse for a birthday movie.

Luckily, head brewer Ram Khalsa happened to be there, working on some equipment. Ram has experience at several local breweries, including La Cumbre. We had a brief chat and I took a couple of pictures to entice our readers.

First off, I just have to note that I would be ecstatic if I lived in the area and finally had two places to hang out for beer in such close proximity — Lava Rock and Growler USA. (No, this location of Growler USA still cannot fill Growlers due to the state laws regarding full liquor licenses, but there are nearly 100 taps, so that is pretty impressive.)

The tanks at Lava Rock are finally being filled with beer made on site.

I was able to sample the two house-made beers on tap at the time, Volcan IPA and Seismic Stout. The IPA is on the malty side, which may play well to the area. However, Ram said for the next go-around that he hopes it will be a little less malty, though he added that he doesn’t want it to be overly hoppy, and less dry on the finish. Both beers are highly drinkable and do not suffer from the “watery syndrome” that often occurs in the beginning at new breweries. On deck in the fermenters were a Belgian wit and a blonde, with plans for a hazy IPA soon, Ram said. The goal is to have eight house beers and two-to-four rotating seasonal/specialty offerings.

If you live in the area, I hope you are already a regular. If not, head over and check out Lava Rock. It has a full kitchen with a weekday happy hour, and the patio is open to enjoy the warmer weather. The space looks great, and the two staff members I met were very nice and incredibly welcoming.

Cheers!

— AmyO

It was an award-winning year for Rob Palmer and his namesake brewery.

I actually could not believe a year had passed since I last talked to brewer/owner Rob Palmer of Palmer Brewery about the year that was in the annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series. I mean, where the hell did that year go, anyway? But, yes, it was time again, so I corralled the ever-busy Rob and sat him down for a brief chat.

Right off the bat, I congratulated Rob on winning a bronze medal at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival in the collaboration beer category with Quarter Celtic Brewpub. I can confirm that Mocha Hipster Bomb is very good indeed, and now back on tap at the brewery. Rob said he is enjoying making collaborations because he enjoys working with the other brewers and the camaraderie involved with that. In April, he will be doing a different kind of collaboration beer with High and Dry Brewing, reportedly a wheat beer with some fun ingredients.

We discussed awards in general (Rob is not in favor of contests with large numbers of awards per category, as if everyone gets a participation award), the recent cancellation of the National IPA Challenge, and the sad demise of the Southwest Brewing News.

Just as a reminder, you can take beer home, not just the Left Turn spirits.

I asked about the status of the patio that he and Left Turn Distilling owner/distiller Brian Langwell have been wanting to add for a while. I was able to get a peek at some actual renderings, so there is some progress with that. It is their focus right now, and hopefully it will actually happen by this summer, Rob said. They need more space, period.

They are looking for a taproom site, but do not want to rush anything. It has to be right for them, Rob said. They are growing at their own pace, what demand allows, and are not worried too much about packaging. The current location is already in a very healthy beer area (literally the Brewery District), so they are looking at places that might be more underserved.

The jointly owned taproom space has required the hiring of more bartenders, but Rob is still mostly a one-dude show for brewing operations. Rob said that he needs to buy more fermenters so he can start double batching some beer; he keeps running out of the Low Card Lager, and that takes a long time to produce. They will most certainly need more capacity if they do open another location.

Rob wanted our readers to know about the success of their kitchen, Cocina Amada. Last year, they were really just getting it off the ground. He said the food is great and hugely popular. Rob added that they are so happy with the relationship they hope to get them over to the new taproom when that is established.

The staff is in constant motion at Palmer Brewery.

Left Turn and Palmer just made their first malt whiskey. Yep, malt whiskey. It’s currently barrel aging, so I did not get to try it (yet!). It doesn’t have to have an age statement, so Rob will just know when it’s ready by continuing to taste test it. There is also a bigger monster of a Cockness Monster (Scotch Ale) barrel aging right now at more than 9-percent ABV. The new spring beer menu has some fun beer cocktails on it as well, another direct way both sides of the business — the brewery and distillery — can work together. Rob said the percentage of sales varies. On some nights, the beer sells more than the cocktails, and sometimes it’s the reverse.

Thanks once again to Rob for his always amazing hospitality. It was a late afternoon on a Friday, so it was especially nice that he agreed to take time out to talk to me at such a busy time. But, that also meant I was able to hang out a bit with Brian and Chris Medina, assistant distiller/sales manager, a former subject of our “Unsung Heroes” series. That’s just a fantastic way to start a weekend!

Happy early St. Patrick’s Day to all. Be safe out there.

— AmyO

Corrales has its own small brewery tucked inside this historic building.

Casa Vieja, located on Corrales Road in the heart of Corrales, is just what the name says — a very old house. Established in 1770, it has been many different things over the centuries, including a church and a small hospital. It is best known for its long tradition as a popular fine dining restaurant. It was a bit of a surprise, then, when we learned they started brewing beer and became a taproom.

As part of our Look Back/Look Ahead Series, I met with Gary Socha, owner and brewer at this new iteration of Casa Vieja, although his business card says his title is “Beer Whisperer.” It is this bit of whimsy that makes you want to root for him out of the gate. All throughout the interview, it was clear to see Gary has an impish way about him, and his passion for this project is evident. But, there is also a calmness that has helped him weather both the usual and unusual types of issues that have come up along the way.

Gary was a homebrewer and a member of the Dukes of Ale Homebrew Club, and won a gold medal in the 2015 New Mexico Pro-Am in the German Wheat category. The word Duke was soon to gain a whole new importance for Gary. But, we will get to that. First, I wanted to know the history of how Gary obtained ownership of the place, and how it came to be the newest brewery (until Ex Novo opens) in the area.

In 2011, Casa Vieja fell victim to the area’s economic hard times and repair issues. The long-time restaurant, a one-time home to some notable Albuquerque chefs such as Jim White and Jean-Pierre Gozard, closed its doors. Casa Vieja always held a special place in the hearts of Gary and his wife of over 40 years. In fact, they went there on their honeymoon.

In 2016, Gary’s family purchased the property, restored it, and turned it into an event space. They spent a great deal of money on renovation, and did not want to have to spend much more on a liquor license. Well, Gary was already a brewer, right? So a small brewer license made much more sense. Plus, the addition of a taproom meant the locals could have a relaxed and charming space in which to grab a craft beer.

The commercial kitchen was removed during the renovation, and now Casa Vieja has only a catering kitchen (for the events, mainly). Gary figured that many breweries rely on food trucks, so that should not be a big deal. Unfortunately, it proved difficult to book any trucks due to the location, amount of patrons, and being the last guy in line to request a truck. The only way to get them was to supplement them with a guaranteed amount. Luckily, another chef alumnus from Casa Vieja, Jon Young of ABQ BBQ, came to the rescue to provide catering. Eventually, they plan to park Jon’s bus that has seating as well as a kitchen in it right in the catering driveway attached to the catering kitchen. It is a win for everyone involved.

Most of Casa Vieja’s equipment had to be lowered into the brewing space through the roof.

One of the more unusual hurdles that Gary faced had to do with the brewing equipment. Old houses tend to have smaller entrances and challenges with preservation. Therefore, Gary special ordered brewing equipment to meet the specs of the house’s brew space. Unfortunately, a long battle ensued with the manufacturer regarding delivery of the equipment, and when it finally arrived many months late, it was two to three times the size it was supposed to be. The boil kettle was supposed to be 800 pounds, and it is 2,000 pounds. To sum up, they had to drop it in through the roof using a crane. The upside to this, I suppose, is that he has a larger brewing capacity (3-to-4 barrels) if he needs it. In July 2018, the taproom somewhat quietly opened to the public with limited hours.

Gary faced another annoying (to say the least) challenge over the Thanksgiving holiday. There is an “out building” behind the main house that was built as a walk-in cooler for the restaurant. This would serve as Gary’s keg storage area. Over the holiday, the control decided to fail. The building turned from a walk-in cooler to a freezer. All the kegs froze. He came back to find exploding kegs. He was also storing his yeast in there, so all the yeast died.

You never know what you might run in to in and around older properties. That said, not all of the surprises were troublesome ones. Prior to Gary’s purchase of the property, Casa Vieja developed a roof leak that needed repair. Like something out of a novel, the contractors found an old portrait painting in the wall. It was in pretty bad shape. The age and subject of the painting were unknown at the time. The previous owner stated the painting had to stay with the building and Gary agreed. The painting was evaluated in Santa Fe and carefully restored. The evaluation determined that the painting was likely done in Spain in the 1600s. It is an oil portrait of Jean Louis de Nogaret de la Valette, a French nobleman who held the title of Duke d’Epernon. And thus, the reference to Duke literally resurfaces! The painting is now prominently displayed near the entrance. In tribute to this French duke, Duke (of Ale) Gary brewed a house beer known as “Duke’s Red Ale.”

The taproom area is a charming space.

Gary said his plan for the rest of the year is to continue brewing and have around six of his own taps online, as well as a few guest taps. At the time of my visit, there were three Casa Vieja brews available — a hefeweisen, a lager, and Duke’s Red. Guest taps that day included a cider from Steel Bender, Steel Bender’s Blue Bullet Stout on nitro, and La Cumbre’s Elevated IPA. Current taproom hours are 5 to 8 p.m. every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

If any of our readers would like to visit the Duke (either of them, really) and try the beer, this Sunday is Arts Alive! in Corrales. Gary will be performing Art of Brewing demonstrations at 2 and 4 p.m. at Casa Vieja. The brewery will also feature art by Dave Sabo and Wanda Blake.

As the Duke d’Epernon himself might say …

À votre santé,

— AmyO

If you’ve had trouble in the past finding the turn off for Ale Republic, well, now you have no excuse for missing it.

Driving north on Highway 14 in the east mountains, I immediately noticed a change in front of Ale Republic, my destination for this entry in our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series. Instead of turning right by the post office into a nondescript entrance, there is now a bright turquoise grain hopper with a brewery sign, just south of the other entrance, announcing the new way to approach the building.

Entering using this access presents the building head-on rather than from the side, which is much more impressive. Two and a half years after Ale Republic’s opening, I have seen several changes, and this was only the first change just since my last visit a few months ago. There is now a covered patio in the front, with plans to add gas heaters. On the north side of the building, a stage is taking shape for live music outside. It will be covered in the same corrugated metal roof style as the patio.

Well, look at that, a food menu at Ale Republic!

The biggest news, however, is the addition of an on-site kitchen. I was excited to be able to grab lunch there with my beer, so I ordered a Cubano sandwich (with house-picked jalapenos added; a perfect compliment suggested by our “beerista”) and a cup of green chile chicken stew. Both items were outstanding. The only nitpick I can even bring up is that the side pickle was not very pickled compared to the jalapenos, making it taste a little like a side of cucumber. A very small slight.

Greta, our beerista, told us that in the front of house, Ale Republic is showcasing a featured artist each month, with an art show each first Friday. Anyone who is interested can submit their work. The art really warms up the taproom space and helps connect the brewery to the community.

The taproom is a cozy place.

Business partners Patrick Johnson and Zach Gould sat down with me to discuss these new improvements and what they foresee happening in the upcoming year. They said they have pushed expansion pretty rapidly on a shoestring budget. They have decided not to take on any investors, so they do what they can when they can. This week sometime, they are expecting another brand-new arrival (Patrick is a new dad, as well). A wood-fired pizza oven will be installed by the new year. If the rest of the food is any indication, this will be a great reason to make the short drive from town.

Zach said he is hoping to do special bottle releases on a regular basis this coming year. Also, they hope to get some taps going in Albuquerque. The addition of new brewing space in the building behind the taproom, and quite a few new fermenters, will help Ale Republic accomplish those goals. Patrick and the brewing team are still using a 3-barrel system, but can turn out the beer faster with their additional equipment. The installation of a tankless water heater provided the ability to almost constantly brew without needing a hot liquor tank. They are brewing two-to-three times per week and are keeping more styles available on tap. Hopefully, in 2019, they will move to a 10-barrel system, they said.

Patrick has a little more room to play in these days.

The large amount of space and high ceilings in the new building will allow for larger tanks, and Patrick said they are in the market to purchase some. I also asked him about the water at their location, because I know it is a big issue for some east mountain businesses. Patrick said it used to be an issue for them as well, but they changed the location for well extraction, and their particular source is perfect. One hundred yards away the water is not good, Patrick said. At Ale Republic, it comes straight out of the well pretty much pH neutral. It is always being tested and does not need to be treated. As far as they know, they are the only ones using untreated water right from the ground.

Ale Republic plans to launch its 2019 music series with a big party on 4/20. Yes, it is very intentional. It falls on a weekend this year, so it is just perfect. When they acquired the back building, they moved the lot line quite a bit and the property is much more spacious. We walked most of the property. Long-term plans include a beer garden back there in the next few years. It will be great because there are mountains and hills on all sides.

Is this not a reasonable place to park?

If you thought you knew Ale Republic, you might want to come back for the expanded beer selection and the thoughtful menu from the new kitchen. There is a chance for snow this week, something that turns the already lovely east mountains into a magical destination.

Wintry cheers!

— AmyO

The original Broken Trail location is just for production now, so make sure to hit up the Uptown Taproom or the Green Jeans Taproom.

Unbelievably, here we are again at the end of another year. As part of our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series, I pretty much literally corralled Matt Simonds, Broken Trail owner (and mad scientist, perhaps?), to ask about the latest goings on for his brewery/distillery. As usual, things, they are a-changing.

Previously, we told our readers that the main production facility was going to be just for that — production — and there would no longer be a taproom at that location. That part of the plan has come to fruition. It’s been a bit melancholy for me, because of so many fond memories of hanging out there. Matt feels it, too, but he is staying plenty busy trying to keep up with the massive increase of work on the manufacturing side. Quite simply, they absolutely needed the space.

The bar area at the original location is now used for storage.

The bar is gone. It is in pieces in storage, hopefully to be repurposed in some way or perhaps several ways. The front room is now jam packed full of pallets of cans. The back area holds tanks as far as the eye can see.

The reason for the change is pretty damn exciting. Matt is now the producer for a nationally-distributed vodka-based beverage. That has become a major part of his production and brings in a revenue stream that allows him to focus on important issues, like making more of his own bourbon. Fear not, ABQ, he is still cranking out the craft beer and spirits for all of us to drink/purchase at the Uptown and Green Jeans locations (spirits only at Green Jeans).

At the taproom they always had as many as three guest taps on, but now they are excited to be basically 100-percent Broken Trail beer. They do still carry Tractor’s cider and they love working with them, Matt said. He has no plans on getting in the cider game.

The tanks are full pretty much all the time now.

It seems each year Matt has to significantly change something. Recently, a major change has been on the marketing front. He has a spiffy, newly-designed website done by professionals, he says, instead of doing it himself. There are big changes happening with packaging innovations and labeling. He is coming up with new ideas in the beer cocktail arena. People, this is a guy who is always trying something new. He is a chemistry guy and so much of it is a science. I decided to start calling him Matt “What-the-Hell” Simonds. Because, whatever he comes up with next, he is not afraid to give it a shot. Literally.

In fact, as far as the coming year goes, Matt said we should be looking for something pretty awesome packaging-wise in 2019. Right now, though, we have to wait for more information. He loves to keep me in suspense, I think. The other thing Matt is hoping for in 2019 is a bit of sanity, like maybe a day off here or there …

That’s a lot of packaging.

Matt said he wants to streamline the processes, get the beer really dialed in, do small experimental batches, and do more barrel aging. His bourbon is really killer right now, so the possibilities for barrel aging beer are getting better and better. He let us try his latest bourbon (Barrel #4) and it has no burn. It is just that smooth, and definitely up there with the best I have tasted. I can certainly see why he is so proud of it!

I asked about future taproom plans. Matt said his take on it is if a situation arises that is absolutely perfect, he would want to jump on it. But, he is not specifically looking.

In March, look for a Broken Trail beer/spirit/food pairing at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. That should be one tasty adventure.

Cheers!

— AmyO

The beers are now flowing out in Tijeras.

For the past three weeks, Lizard Tail Brewing’s Rock Canyon Taproom in Carnuel has been operating in a soft opening mode. That all changes this Saturday when they will have the grand opening celebration. The party includes live music all day, headlined by The Real Matt Jones at 7 p.m.

New tap handles adorn the space.

I recently paid a brief visit to the taproom previously owned by Grant Brewing out of Chama. The interior was already really nicely appointed, so not a lot needed to be changed. They did fill it in with more tables and some visually stunning pieces of art.

There is new signage, of course, and naturally all-new beers. There were seven Lizard Tail beers on tap, as well as a watermelon cider from Sandia Ciders, plus several other local beers in bottles and a few wines by the glass were also available.

The new beer list, mostly courtesy of Lizard Tail.

Enjoy the pictures, and if you get a chance, stop by and have a beer and a visit. The staff are super welcoming and very excited to be a part of bringing beer, music, food and fun back to Tijeras Canyon.

Cheers!

-AmyO