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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

 

Red River was just as glorious as the pictures make it look.

Fall was suddenly and dramatically in the air recently as Dave and I trekked up north to visit some breweries we have been trying to visit for some time. We welcomed the cooler air and monsoonal rains as we made our way around arguably the most beautiful area of the state. Our plan was overly ambitious, and we knew that we were not going to get to everything we wanted to see with just one overnight stay in Taos. Sadly, some of our curiosity stays with us as we wait for another time, another adventure.

We did have a main goal, a must-do if you will. Having seen the amazing pictures online of Red River Brewing Company, we decided that would be our primary destination. If nothing else, we were bound and determined to make it to the brewery that was able to win the first round with its maiden entry into the NM IPA Challenge. An overall fourth place finish was also quite impressive.

Red River has one of the best atmospheres for a brewery in the state.

We were blown away. It’s even much, much nicer in person. Dave declared it the nicest brewery atmosphere in all of New Mexico and Arizona. We tried the winning entry, Bad Medicine DIPA. While not our style, it was easy to see why it impressed. Our pick of the sampler we ordered was the Amarillo SMASH.

When I was researching what route we wanted to take, I was looking at Google Maps and found something very interesting. A roadhouse-y kind of dive bar/beer hall in the middle of the northeastern part of the state. I guess technically it’s in Maxwell, but there is not much near there, for sure. Due to its name, I was fixated on getting there. The online reviews are great and it’s a 15-minute drive from Cimarron. The place, my friends, is Colfax Tavern & Diner at Cold Beer New Mexico. Let that sink in. Cold Beer New Mexico. Who the hell knew?

One of the more unique beer bars in the state can be found near Maxwell.

I saw a beer koozie on their website that I knew I needed to have. I bought one, so I am now a very proud owner. Speaking of owners, the owners of this place are incredibly welcoming. I even heard them telling another customer they had someone in there from Australia recently. I would be remiss if I did not mention that they have their “own” beer on tap — “Cold Beer.” But, it’s brewed by Full Sail in Oregon. The owner said nobody in New Mexico wanted to brew it for them. I am putting out the call, some Northern New Mexico brewery should step up and brew them a beer. This place is awesome. In fact, my personal opinion is (of course I do not know the possible reasons why this has not happened) that Colfax Ale Cellar in Raton should get together with them on this. They are neighbors, and Colfax is in the name, after all. Although we didn’t make it as far as Raton, I had one of their beers in Cimarron, a golden ale, and it was outstanding.

The beer isn’t quite ready yet, but the guest taps and the barbecue are reason enough to visit Blu Dragonfly in Cimarron.

I had the Colfax Rabbit Chaser Golden while having lunch at Blu Dragonfly Brewing and Smokehouse in Cimarron. Blu Dragonfly does not have its own beer on tap yet, but should have it on by Oktoberfest. The barbecue was outstanding, and that golden ale had just enough kick and a clean finish to cut through the richness of all the meat. I must admit to basically inhaling the mac and cheese as well …

Owner Colin is very civic minded. That day, Blu Dragonfly was welcoming all the bicycle racers in the race they organized with Philmont Scout Ranch. It was fun to cheer each racer as they came to the finish line and grabbed a much deserved beer (the riders were over 21, of course). Colin then surprised me by giving me one of their awesome pint glasses I was coveting. Thanks, Colin!

Don’t forget about Enchanted Circle in Angel Fire.

We took a different route on our way back to Taos and finally stopped at Enchanted Circle Brewing Company in Angel Fire. I forgot how beautiful that town is because I haven’t been there in forever. The Nice Day IPA was aptly named. We watched a massive rainstorm sweep through (the third or fourth of our trip already) and toasted to Zeus for bringing the weather.

It was time to get back to Taos and get settled into our hotel. We made one final trek that night to the Taos Mesa Brewing Tap Room near the plaza. It was our first trip to this location, though we have been to the Mothership outside of town. It is fantastic and not to be missed when in in Taos.

The Taos (Mesa) Tap Room in the heart of town is definitely worth the visit.

The next day, we made a few stops in Santa Fe on our way home to visit places that we cannot easily get to when we take the train. That day probably deserves its own story so I will save that for some other time.

Suffice it to say, it’s not just the weather that is getting cooler up north. The brew scene is as well. We cannot wait to get back up there to revisit our new favorites and visit the ones we missed.

Cheers!

— AmyO

Quite a few of the Lizard Tail beers will soon be available at their first off-site taproom.

I was pretty bummed out when I found out that the Grant Brewing Taproom in Carnuel (just east of town in Tijeras Canyon for the uninitiated) was shutting its doors earlier this summer. It was a great spot to stop when you are heading to the East Mountains.

Then I learned that the friendly folks from Lizard Tail Brewing (located at 9800 Montgomery Blvd NE, Suite 7) have come to save the day. I stopped in over the weekend to grab a pint on my way to dinner and was able to speak with Lizard Tail owner Dan Berry.

Although I knew they were reportedly going to take over the spot in Carnuel, I had no idea it was happening so soon. Yes, it was already a completed taproom space, but these things always take longer than anyone imagines due to the various permits and regulations.

The old Grant Brewing taproom in Carnuel will soon become the Rock Canyon Tap Room.

I almost fell off my barstool when I asked Dan if Rock Canyon Tap Room, their new name, had a target opening date yet, and he said he is hoping for sometime in mid-September. As in next month, not next year. As always, it depends on local/county government paperwork, so we cannot lock in an exact date right now.

Dan said they should have seven of their own beers on tap, plus some cider. They will also sell local wines. Additionally, they plan on adding a kitchen, which is something Grant did not have.

Good luck on the new taproom, Lizard Tail! I can’t wait to rock some beer in the canyon once again.

Cheers!

— AmyO

The long-awaited opening is finally in sight for Cantero.

The Crew was invited to come get a sneak peek at the upcoming Cantero Brewing Company at 3351 Columbia Dr. NE in Albuquerque. If the address sounds familiar, it is because that is the site of the former Firkin Brewhouse.

I was anxious to get in there and see how much it has changed, and boy, has it. There is much more (and much larger) brewing equipment installed in the back now. In fact, they already are looking at needing more space.

The new equipment is just about ready to go.

Space is already at a premium in the back.

The brewpub area has transformed into something more modern and sleek. I remarked how it kind of reminded me of the feel of Toltec Brewery on the Westside near Cottonwood Mall, although it is a different layout overall. I found out that some of the work was done by the same contractor. It is bizarre, considering I have no design or construction background that my crazy brain picked up on it somehow.

Booths line the wall near the door to the kitchen and brewery.

The stone work is beautiful, and that in fact goes along with the name. Although I do know some Spanish, my fairly limited vocabulary did not include the word Cantero, so I had to ask what it means. It turns out it means stone cutter. So, there you go.

The sleek-looking interior of the taproom.

Some quick items to note. The targeted opening date is September 15. The staff said they plan on doing four or five house beers — American ale styles — to start with, and then add seasonals to the rotation. Some guest taps and wine will be served as well. There is a kitchen and they will have a full menu. The taps are ready to be installed (probably this week).

The cozy patio should be a draw for patrons.

The beautiful patio out front on the east side of the building will have about seven tables with both four-tops and a couple of two-tops, as well as a built-in area that fits seven.

Please enjoy the pictures and look for more information soon on their opening.

Cheers!

— AmyO

Changes are afoot inside the original Broken Trail location on Stanford.

On an uncharacteristically overcast Saturday, Dave (boyfriend/partner in crime) and I were tooling around in our Jeep and made our way over to visit our buddy Matt Simonds, owner of Broken Trail Spirits + Brew. For some reason as we drove along, we had a discussion about how we missed the old days of hanging out nearby in the onetime micro pub of the original Il Vicino Brewing operation on Vassar north of Comanche. We were feeling especially nostalgic, but little did we know that feeling was about to become the theme of the next few hours.

It was apparent something major was happening from the moment we walked into Broken Trail’s base of operations on Stanford. There was a bit of controlled chaos. Matt waved to us from the back, so we took a seat at the bar. We were the only ones there, but we were completely surrounded — by supplies. Since it was a slow Saturday afternoon, I wondered if they were just doing some major summer cleaning/rearranging. Matt soon set us straight and filled us in on some significant operational news.

It turns out this would be our last time in this taproom as we currently know it. Matt said they need the space for ramped up production, so the majority of the seating in the original location has to go to make room. Dry storage and probably the bottling line will move up front. He hopes to keep the bar intact and use that area as his lab for now, and keep taps operational for occasional drop-ins; he just will not have any regular taproom hours. Essentially, the main taproom business will be at the Uptown location on Menaul just east of Louisiana. I started to get misty and wistful all over again.

It’s bittersweet, Matt said. The whole bar is a piece of him; it’s his baby.

The Uptown taproom will now be the focus of where folks can enjoy a Broken Trail beer on tap.

Then the craziest thing happened. I was suddenly appeased when Matt went on to say that he hopes he can have this original location mimic the vibe of the old Il Vicino. He was waxing nostalgic about it, too. What the hell? Is this guy clairvoyant or something?

So hopefully, it will all come full circle.

I told Matt it’s a very good thing he recently opened the Uptown taproom, and he agreed. He said the location has turned out to have a different crowd than he expected. His expectation was that the location would have about a 50/50 split between spirit and beer sales. To his surprise, that number is currently about 70/30 in favor of beer. Not only was the area underserved as far as local brewery taprooms go — because really only the Alien Brew Pub is in close proximity — and having multiple hotels nearby helps as well. The hotel directly across the street is the Albuquerque crew hotel for Southwest Airlines. Southwest crew members have an app for local places that provide discounts, and this provides good exposure for the taproom.

Matt said that since the first day they opened, they have been at 100-percent capacity. The thing is, about every six months, they increase capacity. They are also making beer much more frequently than they used to. He thinks that makes them better at it, plus turning it over faster makes for fresher beer.

More production means more new equipment for owner Matt Simonds, right.

So why the sudden, larger increase in production? For the most part, it stems from being super flexible and always willing to try new things, as well as the relationships Matt has built with other related businesses. Broken Trail is naturally increasing production, bottling, and distribution of their own spirits (as well as accompanying sodas and syrups) and kegging their own beer. They are now working with Mother Road Mobile Canning to package their Pepe the Mule malt beverage. (Pepe even has a Facebook page!)

It is this relationship with Mother Road that fostered the latest opportunity, requiring the immediate need for expansion of the production area. Mother Road approached Broken Trail with an opportunity. As of last week, Broken Trail is the western U.S. producer for a nationally distributed ready-to drink canned spirit product (one not distributed in New Mexico at this time).

Matt had to scramble to buy more, larger equipment. He has a new 40-barrel tank ready to go on line. He is waiting for some fittings and other pieces of additional equipment. They are currently using their 15-barrel tank every day. They will need Mother Road to come in and do canning multiple times a week. And, that means, Matt needs more help in the warehouse. He said it may even lead to having two shifts every day. Three weeks ago, he thought there was no way, he didn’t think he could do it. But, he is doing it. Somehow he makes it work, with more equipment and streamlining of processes.

The original taproom will be consumed by the ever-expanding need for more production.

Additionally, they are talking with a few other local businesses about producing some related, non-alcoholic beverage products. Our most loyal readers may remember a previous story where we joked (joked is the operative word; we were not serious) about Matt changing the name of his business every year and having a contest for the best name. Broken Trail used to be called Distillery 365. Now I said this year he needs to change the name to Broken Trail Beverage Company.

For my own purely selfish reasons I am feeling a bit sad about the change, but it’s really a great sign for things to some. Matt said he is excited about the new opportunities; as always, he is full of the giddy, contagious enthusiasm that is quintessential Matt Simonds.

Cheers to new adventures!

— AmyO

Red Hat Hops’ Tom Brewer, left, will be one of two speakers at Red Door Brewing for an educational talk on beer and hops in New Mexico.

Red Door Brewing Company and Red Hat Hops are teaming up during this year’s ABQ Beer Week to provide some educational fun. This Tuesday at 7 p.m., you can head over to Red Door’s Candelaria location for a Hops and Beer talk with head brewer Matt Meier and Tom Brewer from Red Hat Hops. I was able to meet with Matt for a brief preview. Tom was there as well, accompanied by partner Tim Arnold, Tom’s son Bubba, and another farm employee, Charlotte.

Matt said the event will be free and open to whoever is in the taproom; there is no need to sign up in advance. Matt and Tom will be available for questions about the brewing process and about hops and growing hops.

I asked Matt about the intended audience and he said it is for anyone, but probably mostly for those who are either a novice or just curious about growing hops and about the hop industry in general in New Mexico. Matt specifically said this is an informational discussion and not any kind of sales environment. He playfully said there will be no scary “timeshare” pitches! If attendees come away with knowledge, or if questions are clarified, that is what will be satisfying for Matt, he said.

Red Hat Hops is located in Los Ranchos.

Tom said he has given many talks on the subject and that he and Matt plan to feed off each other as subject matter experts — Matt on the brewing side and Tom on the hops side. Red Hat is currently growing many different types of hops at its farm on Rio Grande Blvd., just north of Montano. Reportedly, many varieties grow very well in New Mexico because of a lack of mold and pests, even most of the types we associate with the Pacific Northwest. Beyond that, we shall save the details for those who want to come to the event.

Speaking of learning, I learned something myself that I am able to share with our readers. The taproom manger, Ali Cattin, informed me that Red Door is going to have their own permanent food truck called Side Door Kitchen. Red Door’s beers will be featured in some of the recipes, and Ali said she will be the one in charge of the menu. She worked as a chef for eight years and was a student of CNM’s culinary program. The current plan is to pair special foods with special beer releases as well. Red Door hosts the food truck battle during Beer Week, and now they will have their very own involved in the competition!

Red Door head brewer Matt Meier and taproom manager Ali Cattan.

This is a first of its kind Beer Week event. So come on over to Red Door and show support for both an Albuquerque brewery and a local hop farm at the same time. That’s really keeping it local!

Stay hydrated and safe during Beer Week — the Crew will see you all around at the events, so if you see any of us, make sure to say hello.

Cheers!

— AmyO

Twas a mighty spirited anniversary soiree at Palmer last year!

After a few missed attempts with other staff members, I finally sat down with head brewer and co-owner Rob Palmer for a very brief interview about the year in review for the first full year of Palmer Brewery. It is easy to see why it was difficult for us to find a time to meet — the place is totally slammed.

I was ushered into the back, where I found Rob furiously mopping while listening to Willie Nelson cranked up on a tablet plugged in to an old Technics receiver, just like one that I had growing up. It was a fun and humorous way to start things off. Rob immediately went and grabbed me a delicious pint of stout and we began to talk about the last year.

The biggest Palmer news for 2017 was the one year-anniversary in November. It seems like so much longer than a year to me, mostly because it was also the four-year anniversary of Left Turn Distillery, which shares the same space. I was able to attend the anniversary party and it was quite the crowd and experience. They had karaoke on a makeshift patio out front, and everyone, staff included, joined in on the fun. In fact, Rob said they have decided to do karaoke and open mic on Wednesday nights now.

I asked Rob about the first year and he seemed pretty blown away by the brewery’s popularity. He said it gets better every day, every week. The staff sets numbers they think they need to achieve; they hit that number and it seems like it is at capacity. Then a couple of weeks later, it feels like they double that number.

Since co-owner and distiller Brian Langwell is a machinist, they recently built a kitchen and now have a space available if or when they want to make food. They have been getting great feedback on their Taco Tuesday nights. They always have five-plus types of tacos. Rob said people were wary of the Spam and pineapple tacos, but they always sell out first. Unfortunately, Rob is way too busy and does not want to run a kitchen, so they still rely mostly on the fantastic local food trucks.

The other big push from last year is that they attended many festivals. I told Rob it seemed like I did see them everywhere. Rob said he enjoys the festivals and getting out in the sunlight instead of being stuck inside the brewery or bar all day.

Rob’s focus over the past year was to keep consistent beers on tap and keep up with demand, he said. I told Rob I was a big fan of the double IPA — the “Bro” — but it has been out the past couple of visits. He said that it’s because he cannot get the hop supply for the hop they were using in the Bro. It was made using Nelson Sauvin hops, and they are very hard to get; now they need to try again with a different hop.

As for what’s new at Palmer, last week the brewery launched their first production lager called Lowcard Lager in collaboration with Lowcard skateboard magazine. On the launch day, Palmer had some skateboarding pros in house and premiered their tour video.

Also, they are working on building an outdoor patio, which they really need because seating inside their building is often at a premium these days. As usual, the stumbling block is dealing with the City. The City wanted them to open in that part of town, and now says parking is a problem. But, the majority of Palmer’s operating hours (evenings and weekends) are outside the hours of the other area businesses. There is plenty of street parking. Hopefully it is settled quickly, because prime patio season is approaching fast.

For my off-the-wall question, I asked Rob if a pile of money landed on him and he was not allowed to keep it, only to use it in the brewery, what would be the first thing he would do with it? He immediately responded, “More equipment.” This week he is getting a couple of grundy tanks from a colleague, so that will help him keep up with some of the demand. The other thing, he said, is he would build a rooftop patio. The current building would not be able to support it, so they would have to do something like Marble did.

Look for more and different ciders from Palmer in the near future. They have some cider barrel aging right now. They hope to expand their barrel aging — after all, they co-exist with a distillery, so it’s a natural fit.

Congrats to Palmer on one hell of a first year, and to Left Turn Distilling for turning four as well.

Since it is March now (wow, already!), I will sign off with …

Slainte!

— AmyO