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Red Door soars toward year number four

Posted: September 12, 2018 by Franz Solo in Events, News
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Red Door brewer Matt Meier has a new beer ready for us on Friday!

Another year has passed for Red Door — wait, how did this year just, wasn’t it just GABF, ahem, never mind! — and they will be celebrating this Friday at the Candelaria brewery location (we recommend utilizing Lyft and such as parking is at a premium). Stoutmeister and I sat down with head brewer Matt Meier, owner Matt Biggs, and taproom manager Ali Cattin to get all of the details.

Solo: So you have a fourth anniversary coming up.

Cattin: So for the actual day of we are doing anniversary pint glasses as we do every year. We have a logo for this year that we think looks like a Zia, which has the Red Door logo in each of the four quadrants. The company that does our T-shirts, Risen, (is) coming to do a live screen printing of that anniversary logo. We are not going to do a run of shirts, so if you want that four-year logo on anything, you have to come on Friday the 14th. We will start giving away pint glasses at 5 o’clock, music will start at 8 p.m., Ryan Painter and Jake Phillip’s band will be here, and we will do a big set up with the doors to the patio open so there will be a good indoor/outdoor experience happening. Our food truck, the Side Door Kitchen, will have some specials that night and we are also bringing in Nomad’s BBQ as well. 

Solo: He’s the best. 

Cattin: Albuquerque Axe, our neighbors over here, are bringing their mobile unit so we are super excited about that. So we will have Nomad’s and Albuquerque Axe out back, music inside, pint glasses, T-shirt printing, (and) the Cornavore will also be here with a special birthday blend for us. 

Biggs: 94 Rock will be here promoting the Storehouse Hops for Hunger event, too. They will do some live broadcasting from 5 to 7 p.m. 

Meier: We will be releasing a Double Vanilla Cream Ale which is going to GABF, as well.

* * * * *

That all sounds good to us, so head on down this Friday evening for a night of great beer, including the awesome-sounding Double Vanilla Cream, excellent food and BBQ, anniversary pint glasses, T-shirt screening, music, local popcorn, 94 Rock, and one of my personal favorites, axe throwing!!!! Also of note, $1 from each pint of Dunkel (delicious German wheat) will go to the Storehouse, so do some good while enjoying a pint. 

See you all there and Skål!

— Franz Solo

La Cumbre’s new taproom is ready to go!

Franz Solo here on the cusp of your weekend to announce the opening of La Cumbre’s taproom this coming Monday, the 20th of August. Located on Albuquerque’s west side at the new shopping center on the southeast corner of Coors and Montaño, this is quite a lovely addition to those of us who live in the Taylor Ranch neighborhood and surrounding areas.

The exterior is complete.

To say that I’m just a little excited for this is entirely an understatement. Since moving into Taylor Ranch in 2012, one of the few things that was missing from our neck of the woods was a stellar taproom, and we always hoped one would land right around Coors and Montaño. Our hopes have been answered, and man, I’m happy to have La Cumbre here. I had a few moments to chat with owner Jeff Erway and snap a few photos of the nearly completed space, so without further ado …

It’s mighty cozy inside.

Franz Solo: All right, so we finally got a taproom. So what does this mean for La Cumbre and how excited are you?

Jeff: You know, I wasn’t excited when we got started, but I’m pretty darn excited now, because it’s that feeling of accomplishment. Except this time, it wasn’t the vast majority of it just being my wife (Laura) and myself getting it all done. It has been a total team effort and the place looks really good because of that. Everybody came up with plenty of stupid ideas and amongst those stupid ideas a few really good ones rose to the top, and we took those and ran with them.

Owner Jeff Erway is one happy man with that beer menu in place.

Yeah, I’m really proud of the way it looks and how it came out. The general contractor did a great job and as much as anything I’m really excited to see — we know our clientele at our original taproom, it’s hardcore beer geeks — obviously we know that many of them will be coming here as well, but we also know that there will be a totally different group of people coming here as well, which I’m excited to see who that is.

Solo: Heck of a nice patio with the hop-themed metalwork.

Jeff: Thank you very much. We are really pleased with how it came out.

The hop design is quite fun outside.

Solo: I also like that this is quite modern, but you kind of kept the rustic look of the original alongside it.

Jeff: I did. I tried as much as I could. We used lots of recycled wood. We’ve got an arcade game over there with 1,100 different games or something, every single awesome game you played in the 80’s and 90’s we’ve got there. We have a shuffleboard table because it’s something I’ve always loved when I was up in Taos, playing late night shuffleboard. We found a woodworker at Real Woodworks, John, that we really wanted to partner with and I think he just did a killer job creating exactly what we were trying to go for.

Classic arcade games? Oh, the hours we will spend playing these!

Gonna be playing a lot of this as well.

* * * * *

So starting next week, we on the Westside have our own taproom at which to “Get Elevated” and I for one could not be more excited. From the start, there will be 18 distinct beers on tap and also of note, this is the first taproom I’ve seen that has incorporated outlets with USB ports at every booth, along the wall, and under the bar as well to suit our modern device needs for constant power, which is a very nice touch. Head over this coming week and check out the long awaited La Cumbre taproom in all its glory. 

Soon, all those tables and booths will be packed!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

Bears in space?!?! Sounds like a hot ticket!

Another year for Boxing Bear Brewing has arrived and to mark the occasion, Justin Hamilton and company brewed a collaborative hazy IPA with Odd13 Brewing in Colorado.

With Stoutmeister on vacation and the rest of the Crew otherwise engaged at work and such, I headed over solo on Saturday to get my paws on this year’s anniversary ale. The aroma blasts off with dank grapefruit and orange zest, culminating in lightly sweet, freshly mowed clover on the initial nose. A lovely crisp bitterness on the finish cleans the palate with each sip.

Some mellow hints of spiced orange as used in my family’s traditional Yuletide wassail (an orange is halved and then covered with whole cloves like a pincushion before adding to the cider and other spices) make a brief appearance mid-palate before fading back into soft notes of candied lemon and more dank cannabis notes.

The mouthfeel is chewy, like breakfast oatmeal, though I think this may be from the use of flaked wheat rather than oats in this particular beer (I could be wrong, but both oats and wheat are quite common in this style to lend the beer a silky body that we have come to expect). Quite enjoyable through and through, whether for breakfast or a lazy summer’s eve.

Justin and his crew have knocked it outta the park with this collaborative effort for their fourth anniversary. This Lupulin-hazed style is best consumed as quickly as possible before the delicate hop oils fade from the bouquet of the aroma, so if you are interested, grab it now before it disappears. They also made some cool shirts with the bottle label design, so grab some swag while you’re at it and go fight a Bear in Space!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

Ponderosa’s taproom at the revamped El Vado Motel is now open.

Greetings fair readers, Franz Solo here, the other day upon learning that the El Vado taproom for Ponderosa Brewing had opened for business, I was tasked by Stoutmeister with checking it out. As it happens, the historic El Vado Motel, which first opened in 1937 and will reopen after some pretty awesome looking renovations this July, is just two minutes of a bike ride from my usual stopping point on the river by Tingley Beach.

The El Vado Motel sits just over the river on the south side of Central at New York (2500 Central Ave. is the precise address). So after a lovely late morning ride by the Rio Grande in the wonderful June heat (yes, I am a bit crazy to enjoy biking in the afternoons of June through August), I stopped in the just-opened taproom to have a look.

There are 10 Ponderosa beers on tap.

The space is wonderfully rustic, with all of the charm you’d expect for an 80-plus-year-old building, matched flawlessly with modern lighting, fixtures, and so forth. The El Vado taproom has 10 Ponderosa beers on tap at present, and is open daily from noon to close (around 8 p.m., but that is subject to change).

The patio off of the taproom itself is spacious and quite a lovely spot in which to have a pint and a bite to eat, especially once more food options arrive in the other available “pods” on site. When I rode up, several people were enjoying tacos from one of these such establishments which looked quite tempting indeed.

The patio area includes this awesome fountain.

At the back is the motel proper, which from the exterior looked like quite a nice place for both tourists and staycationers alike. The proximity to Tingley Beach, Rio Grande, and the ABQ Biopark makes this quite a nice addition to the area which, is already a lovely part of town in which to spend the day.

(You can also stop by to check out Metal the Store, an awesome clothing and merch space created by Brew Crew friend Michael Wieclaw, which is already open in the El Vado complex. — S)

Another shot of the cozy interior.

So head down and check it out for a pint or two, whether you bike (just head east on Central off the main Bosque bike trail for a couple of blocks) or perambulate down the freshly paved and finally completed Central. 

Until our next adventure, I bid you adieu!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

Somebody has a new home on Candelaria, not far from La Cumbre!

For anyone that was still unaware, Southwest Grape and Grain has moved to a new home at 3401 Candelaria Blvd NE on the north side of the street just west of Carlisle. As the Crew’s main home brewer at this point, I, Franz Solo, headed over to meet with owner Donavan Lane to get a tour of the new space, and gain some sense of what he has planned going forward. We first took a look at the main sales floor.

Donavan: Kind of the same setup as before, a little bit more space up here. It is amazing how much of a difference a few hundred square feet makes. I mean, we had maybe only 400 square feet of additional space in the showroom area compared to the old location, but it makes a huge difference. 

Solo: That it does, because you actually have space around the counter. You’ve got easy access to all of the different sections which are all easier to see. A definite improvement to the shopping experience, in my opinion. 

Space, glorious space!

Donavan: Yeah, this will allow us to look at maybe some other products to bring in, and we have more than enough floor space where if we need to add in another shelf or two we can definitely do that. So we will be looking at that in the next couple of months, some other possible products to carry. 

The grain room is pretty much the same setup we had at the other shop.

Solo: But it’s just so nice and open and …

Donavan: Visible?

Solo: Yeah, visible, it’s not tucked around the corner in the back.

Donavan: Especially for our existing customer base who have been brewing for a long time and coming to us, they knew to go down the hall at the old shop and the grain room is right there. But, for new customers they would walk in and they would never even know this was part of the store, and just having the display bins with all of the different malts it’s just cool looking. So when we designed the space I knew I wanted windows, I wanted this to be visible. The nice thing is that this is kind of a focal point of the store now which is great. 

Southwest Grape and Grain now has a dedicated classroom space.

As some of you may remember from brewing classes offered at the old location, they were held kind of in the middle of everything. I’m glad to say that Grape and Grain now has a dedicated classroom area off of the main floor. We talked a little bit about plans for this space now and in the future.

Donavan: So since we have this space designated as a classroom, I mean we are looking to expand our offering of classes, try to team up with more people on that. I’ve been talking to Brian (Langwell, of Left Turn Distillery) for probably an entire year that we ought to set up a distilling class and things like that. I have a friend who does one of those paint and wine class things, so we will probably look at setting up and doing those here. 

Solo: I mean it is a great space for it.

Donavan: Any other classes we can offer to utilize this space will be something we have in mind. 

The future brewing room and growler fill stations are in the back corner.

New and forthcoming additions to the shop will include a growler-filling station and dedicated brewing area for brewing on site, which is awesome all around.

Donavan: We have our walk-in cooler and our growler-fill station, the intent of it kind of is to brew a few of our own beers, which we will put on tap more as demonstrations than anything. The idea being that if you want to make an IPA or something, here’s one on tap and here are all of the ingredients in a box kind of a thing.

Solo: Yeah, make it and see how yours turns out and then you can learn something and have fun doing it.

Donavan: We eventually plan on putting 20 taps of all of the different local breweries. If a customer wants a pint while they are shopping, that’s great. Overall, however, the focus will be on growler fills, get your homebrew ingredients, get your local beer, and take it home to enjoy while you are brewing. 

This will eventually be our brewing room once we get it finished out the rest of the way. I still have a little 2-barrel system that I had at Broken Bottle, so we are going to set it up and then bring in a few small 1-barrel fermenters and start offering brew on premises. We are looking to do collaborations with Worthogs, Dukes of Ale, with you guys, and so on. Ariel (Figueroa, of Worthogs and a good friend of ours) and I have talked about maybe doing another Battle of the Beer Geeks type of thing, doing another little kind of twist on that with all of the different beer-related clubs in town. 

Make sure to get some reading materials.

Solo: Sounds great to me, the more brewing the better. 

Donavan: We are still waiting, though. We haven’t yet officially submitted our (small brewer) license yet. I’ve got it almost completely done, but the last couple of months with trying to finish up the remodel here and plan the move and everything. 

Solo: Yeah, you’ve had enough on your plate. 

Donavan: It finally just got to the point where I was trying to get it done in the evenings and stuff. Eventually, I had to just put it on the back burner for the time being, get the move done and then finalize it when everything else was all done. Hopefully sooner rather than later we will get it all taken care of and be able to start utilizing this brewing space and get the growler station going.

Solo: It’ll be fun for sure. It’s cool seeing this coming to reality having talked to you, what was it, over a year ago?

Donavan: Yeah, when I bought the shop from Kevin (Davis). It took a lot of planning and between finding the right building and getting a landlord that was willing to work with you and all of the different stuff involved there. But yeah, it’s finally done. Well, mostly done. 

The hops and yeast fridges made their way to the new location.

Solo: You have all of the main stuff tackled.

Donavan: The rest of the stuff is pretty much kind of the same. We tried to keep the same sort of layout and flow of it as close as we could to the other shop. You’ve got your hop fridge, your yeast fridge, your DME and LME, and all of that stuff together, your equipment and kits and stuff all together. So that it is the best possible flow we could create for the layout at this point. Of course, as time goes on we will refine placement of items and such, but the basic idea is already in place. 

The other longer-term thing is that when we get our brewer’s license, we had it put in the lease (that) this outdoor space is ours to utilize. So we are going to put a few chairs and tables out here in this little patio space where you will be able to sit out(side) and have a beer if you want to. Saturday at the grand opening for national homebrew day we had everyone out here where it was the perfect space for everyone to set up and do their brewing demos. Our focus isn’t to try to be a brewery or a taproom or a bar, but to try to bring a little bit of that into the shop is what we had in mind, something of the whole beer experience in one place. If La Cumbre is packed on a weekend and you were on your bike, you can just come over and have a beer here, or once people know that we are doing this you can come down and get three different growlers from three different breweries all in one place. 

Solo: Don’t have to drive all around town to get multiple fills which is quite convenient. Awesome. 

Donavan: It’s been a long couple of months, but it’s mostly all done.

Solo: Hey, you’ve got it man, you’re here.

The grain room is so much more open now.

So for all of you homebrewers out there, head over to the relocated Southwest Grape and Grain and check it out for all of your brewing needs. We will keep you posted as well with any updates to the brewer license/growler station as they come our way.

Until next time, I bid you happy brewing and Skål!

— Franz Solo

We think the late, great Leonard Nimoy would approve of Nexus’ slogan.

Nexus Brewery’s seventh anniversary is closing fast, just two weeks away during Memorial Day weekend. Events will span from Thursday, May 24, through Sunday, May 27, with everything from beer releases to food specials, live music and so on. But, I’ll let owner Ken Carson do the talking here.

“I cannot believe it’s been seven years,” Ken said. “I will never forget the effort it took to go from banking, and hanging out in the four or five breweries in town, and beginning work on our Nexus Brewery.”

As a former banker, Ken said he knew that he needed a business plan and capital. He put the plan and capital together, hired consultants for the kitchen and a master brewer to help with the brewery. However, the plan did not work as intended.

Ken said he noticed about three months in that the ratio of food-to-beer sales was moving against his plan. The projection said 80-percent beer sales and 20-percent food, but it was spinning in the opposite direction. Ken said he was surprised that people really liked the food more than the beer. At nine months, the ratio was 50/50.

“Oh, my goodness, we have become a brewery and restaurant,” Ken said.

The trend continued, and after a visit by celebrity chef Guy Fieri and his program Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives stopped at Nexus, it was all over. The ratio today is 65-percent food to 35-percent beer.

“I think it is our attention to detail, and of course taste,” Ken said. “Nothing can be on our menu unless it tastes exceptional. We are almost 100 percent from scratch, and we work on each recipe every year trying to improve it.”

A tradition like no other, Nexus’ chicken and waffles.

Nexus is not only a company that is about the beer and food. It has a social plan, too. The name Nexus was not arbitrarily created. Although there is an underlying Star Trek theme from the 1994 Star Trek: Generations movie, the word Nexus also mean connection, Ken said.

“Our intent was to build and organization that would connect the community and do good in our community,” he said. “Our membership program provides for members to contribute to our community fund. We also contribute twice as much as our new members provide with their membership. But, we are happy to be an organization that donates to numerous charitable programs thorough out Albuquerque.

“Additionally we wanted to provide good and respectable jobs for our employees, and we have been on the forefront providing a living wage for all employees, along with full health insurance and dental. In addition, all employees revive personal time off, even our servers.”

There is also a third Nexus location coming, just a block south of Avenida Cesar Chavez, with easy access from Interstate 25, and not far from the University of New Mexico sports facilities and Isotopes Park.

“Under construction on 1511 Broadway SE, you will find a new Nexus,” Ken said. “It will be called Nexus Blue Smokehouse. We will create New Mexican barbecue. A touch of red chile and garlic are just a start. But, do not expect Texas, Kansas City or Memphis from us. Our food will always be a blend of indigenous New Mexican flavors with whatever style of food we prepare.

“It’s just like our New Mexico Hot Chicken. We use some cayenne like they do in Nashville, but we know our palates are used to red chile, so we added that and took out the sugar, cause that make no sense. Same will go for the barbecue. I think we did a good job on New Mexican Soul food, and we are not done, so barbecue can be a great addition to our arsenal.”

This place will be packed for the upcoming seventh anniversary.

To get a good idea of what this barbecue will taste like, Nexus will have some prime examples at its anniversary party, which is officially now an ABQ Beer Week event.

“We will provide a preview into our new style of New Mexican barbecue,” Ken said. “I have always personally cooked the barbecue at our anniversary. I will do it again this year. My dream to have a barbecue restaurant is only a few months away. On Saturday, we will have baby back ribs, available until they are gone.

“And on Sunday, we will bring our fried pork chop back. People really loved our pork chops when we were much smaller, but it was difficult to get the meat the way we wanted and we were struggling with room in our fryers. With some of those issues solved we will bring it back.”

Ken said he has enjoyed seeing the growth of Nexus over the past seven years just as much as his customers.

“I am very proud of what we have accomplished,” he said. “I have a great team of people that work very hard every day to bring the Nexus Exbeerience to Albuquerque. I have to give credit to all those employees who have been with us since the beginning or almost, and the new ones that work so hard. A great shout out to the Nexus crew. And also, a great shout out to our customers and Nexus Neighbors and even to our vendors. The support from this community has been tremendous.

“We look forward to seeing all of our friends and neighbors out at month end from Thursday through Sunday!”

There will be two big beer releases for the anniversary weekend.

Here is the lineup of food, beer specials, and bands for both the main Nexus Brewery and the Nexus Silver Taproom on the west side.

  • Thursday, May 24—Release party for Big Ugly Nasty IPA, a.k.a. the BUN
  • Friday, May 25—Release party for the return of Beam Me Up Scotty
  • Saturday, May 26—Day one of the anniversary party, featuring Ken’s famous ribs, with the Racine Creole band performing from 2-5 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 26—At Silver, DJ Graematter will be spinning the best in Afro beat and Afro fusion sounds from 8:30 p.m. to midnight
  • Sunday, May 27—Day two of the anniversary party, featuring a Southern-Fried Pork Chop plate, with Raven Rutherford & Her Sweet Potato Pie Band perform from 2-5 p.m.

In particular, I, Franz Solo, for one look forward to Big Ugly Nasty, being the main hop aficionado of the Brew Crew; and for that matter I do love some ribs, as the rest of the Crew will certainly attest (Yes, yes we do. — S). Beam Me Up Scotty has been a longtime Brew Crew favorite as well and we look forward to trying brewer Randy King’s take on the beloved Scotch ale. So head out and help celebrate seven years of heavenly food and brews from Nexus during the fast approaching ABQ Beer Week!

Skål!

Live Long, and Prosper!

— Franz Solo

We do barrel-aged stout verticals properly. They have to pass a rigorous inspection.

We in the Brew Crew had so much fun doing our review of last year’s KBS from Founders Brewing that we decided to renew our fealty to the lord of bourbon, chocolate, and coffee with a four-year tasting, spanning 2015 to 2018 vintages of the stout much beloved of us in the Crew. Without further ado …

Solo: Here we go again.

Nomicon: (speaking to the microphone) Is this thing on, man?

Luke: Hey, Luke showed up to this one.

(Laughter ensues)

Nomicon: The last one (our somewhat recent Ska Face Barleywine review) wasn’t that incoherent.

Solo: No, we were fine. You were just wearing a winter scarf indoors with the heat on and then this delicious sandwich was born.

The sandwich in question is called the Jumanji, and consists of mayo and croutons among other ingredients. We always wonder where we left the Jumanji parked for some reason. But, I digress.

Nomicon: Fucking seasoned herb croutons, man! 

Solo: Well, yeah, it worked out.

Nomicon: I bought an extra package of seasoned herb croutons even though I have a package already. I don’t know why I keep ending up with more packages of croutons.

Solo: Do you want more?

Nomicon: No, I do not want more. I am set on croutons. Instead of rose petals I’m going to sprinkle croutons on my bed. You know girls like that type of thing.

Solo: Crouton bed?

Nomicon: Yeah, crouton bed. Bed of croutons. (After looking at something online) Whoahoahoa…

Solo: The Founders’ rum ham beer? (For those who did not see it, Founders’ April Fools day joke beers were Rum Ham IPA and Milk Steak Stout)

Nomicon: The Abyss rum barrel variant, ham.

Stout: It’s the new version of rum ham, what kind of rum ham is this? Abyss rum ham!

Nomicon: The rum ham stares into you.

Solo: It just needed a little more, uh … injection! Eeeeeeeeeeee. (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reference to the adrenochrome) Dude, your head will swell up like a watermelon, you’re about to explode! And, you will sound like a raccoon!

At long last, we begin our KBS journey with the 2015 vintage:

Solo: Aroma of bourbon and soy sauce. Soy sauce ain’t bad at all.

Stout: Hint of dark chocolate.

Solo: It all sort of melts together. 

Luke: Yeah, it (individual components of the beer) doesn’t stick out. 

Solo: It definitely has that aged, tannic quality, kind of like the very end of a cabernet or something. 

Various tangential ramblings ensue wherein we discuss the finer points of Dark Lord Day and ponder feasting.

Nomicon: Yeah, I’ll wrap a turkey in bacon and you make the rum ham!

Solo: Deal!

Nomicon: Yeah, this is really rich.

Luke: It has held up pretty well.

Stout: Yeah, I’d say so, you can kind of taste it a little in the mouthfeel, where it is a little thinner. 

Solo: Yeah, it has mellowed. Just sort of …

Nomicon: Sessionable. 

Luke: We would call KBS sessionable. 

Nomicon: It has the flavor of the dark chocolate, but it doesn’t go down like dark chocolate. 

Solo: No, and it doesn’t attack the mid-palate like this beer did last year.

Luke: It hits you up front and then slowly fades back.

Stout: I think the most notable thing is how minimal the coffee is. 

Nomicon: Yeah, the coffee is not distinguishable. It’s a good oak finish, there’s a nice barrel finish.

Solo: You get that vanilla from the oak.

Stout: A little heat up front and then the oaky vanilla on the back. 

Solo: Just a nice, mild burn as it goes down. Last year this had a lot more of the barrel presence. This actually starts to remind me a bit more of the chocolate flavor in stouts from the Bruery, because they have that subtle warming chocolate presence to them, and that’s exactly what this in character reminds me of. 

Nomicon: There’s still the dark chocolate as it warms, but also kind of a cocoa (flavor). I wouldn’t say cocoa powder, but something kind of like that. I wish this was a little more coating because that mouthfeel is just a little thin, but that’s totally fine. I mean, the flavors are still on point. This year is definitely more chocolate forward.

Solo: At this point. 

Nomicon: The booze didn’t mellow at all.

Solo: No, it shouldn’t.

Nomicon: If anything I get more of the bourbon notes. That definitely pops through on the finish on the mid-palate. Kind of a bourbon explosion, along with the chocolate, and then the finish is all earthy with the oaky notes. The vanilla and everything like that kind of lingers around. I’d say it held up well though. 

On to the 2016 vintage!

Luke: This has a little more rich texture to the head, a little darker brown.

Nomicon: That smells hotter than the ’15 did.

Luke: I would even say spicier, but not really spicy per se. 

Solo: The weird thing is this one was just super mellow chocolate last year.

Nomicon: OK, so coffee is pulling forward.

Solo: This one is definitely changing, lots of chocolate and hot bourbon.

We then went off topic discussing some of the Prairie Bomb variants which are also among our favorite imperial stouts. 

Solo: This has a little bit of a smokiness to it almost, kind of like a scotch, just a hair. That might just be from the barrels.

Luke: It almost feels like it has a tiny bit of ancho chile around the end, but not that prominent. It has that little rounded flavor where it goes up in intensity at the end. 

Nomicon: So I’m getting more coffee out of this one than the last one, where the coffee was virtually nonexistent. It is definitely still there in this one, and this still has the same kind of effect that I got on the last one around mid-palate, where it bursts a bit of bourbon and then it is finishing with less oakiness, and I’m getting a bit more hotness on the finish. 

Luke: I’m getting less vanilla, like where you add vanilla to cocoa, and I’m getting more of a burn.

Solo: Which in this case is fantastic. 

Nomicon: Yeah, it’s hotter. It’s not like the last one where I got more earthy oak and vanilla notes and not as much bourbon. This one I definitely get more of the bourbon … Limes? Are those limes?

Solo: We have limes, do you want some limes with your KBS?

Luke: It’s a KBS libre! That should be their next April Fools Day beer.

Solo: Unleash the fucking fury!

Luke: Release the Kraken!

Solo: Somewhere E-Rock, his ears are burning…

Stout: The call of my people!

Nomicon: They need me! They need me!

Further rambling ensues including a retelling of the breaking of a fence, breakfast ribs, and Stout Challenge VII. We then went off into the main nerve of Fear and Loathing, as is proper, and according to our nature, and then finally returned to the delicious task at hand.

Luke: This felt like it was more cohesive, more whole. The ’15 felt like the flavors were more strung out.

Nomicon: This one’s more balanced than the last one. The other one was more chocolate forward. I’d say there were a couple of different layers of chocolate in there.

Luke: Definitely a little oxidation in the last one, but I don’t feel like there’s much of that in this one. 

Nomicon: And, that could’ve just been that specific bottle, too, but it wasn’t overwhelming by any means. 

Solo: No, just a hint. It was starting to oxidize more prominently, but didn’t do any real detriment. 

Luke: I definitely wasn’t licking wet cardboard with that one.

Solo: No wet cardboard, no bandaids, or other off flavors.

Luke: That was good, I like that. Two years then seems to be best (for aging).

What follows is some *unintelligible gibberish* and barnyard noises from all of us in a call and response, not unlike the howling of aeons between demons of a certain ilk which I will not utter here.

Solo: Old man yells at cloud.

Nomicon: OK, I almost just yanked myself back with my nose.

Solo: How many croutons did you have?

Nomicon: Four.

On to the 2017 vintage. The demonic gibberish which had subsided for a moment, suddenly returns and consumes us in a wave of anticipation of our dark and delicious third offering of the evening.

Nomicon: Yow, that smells fucking boozy.

More noises indicating something of approval commence.

Luke: It’s thicker. This one is chewier for sure.

Solo: This has that wonderful bitter chocolate that hits right before you get the barrel. 

Stout: It’s probably the most balanced one we’ve had so far.

Nomicon: So it’s not as hot as it warms up. It was hot in the nose and on the palate at first, but definitely calmed down, but still more chocolate forward. Actually, (it was) more chocolate forward than even the last one.

Luke: More chocolate forward than the ’16, I agree.

Nomicon: The ’16 was more coffee forward in character.

Luke: I would say there were more highs and lows in terms of mouthfeel in the ’16 than in the ’17.

Stout: As far as the heat goes, I’d say the heat is balanced.

Nomicon: I’d say that’s the one thing that’s been consistent as far as the aging and the qualities that you get from the barrel aging, I get booziness in all of them. 

Luke: Which is the booziest so far in your opinion?

Nomicon: I’d say the ’16 so far is the booziest. ’17 wasn’t quite to that level. It was still boozy, but I would still say that the ’16 was a little more boozy from an overall perspective, not just from alcohol warming or the like. Strictly from a standpoint of all of the qualities from barrel aging I get a lot of bourbon. I didn’t get as much of the oaky barrel flavors or vanilla. This one (the ’17) gives a lot more chocolate, so it is kind of like the ’16 was when we tasted it last year with it being so chocolate forward. 

Our conversation then turned to the finer points of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels versus Snatch, which went on for some time.

Cheers to KBS for bringing us together, cheers to the memory of our fallen brother.

At long last, we persisted in our efforts and made it to the 2018 vintage to conclude our tasting. With our final glasses in hand, we raised one up to our dearly departed friend Justin Shearer and shared a moment of silence in his honor.

Solo: Too weird to live, too rare to die. 

More grunting of an excited nature ensues as we dipped our snouts into the dark mist of the aroma wafting off the surface of our goblets. 

Solo: (In a nod to this last season of Twin Peaks) Cooooo-feeeee?

Luke: Oh man, that’s sharp.

Nomicon: Rich as shit.

Stout: Jeebus.

Solo: Wow. 

Nomicon: Yeah, that’s a rich motherfucker.

Stout: My god.

Solo: Yep, this is what I expected.

Nomicon: It’s really rich, but that’s a lot of coffee actually, too. It’s got the most coffee out of the four.

Solo: The coffee seems to fade year by year. Last year’s when it was fresh had a lot of coffee, and after a year of sitting it just chilled out. But, this is probably the most balanced vintage I’ve had out of the five years I’ve tried fresh. Because the others have all been a little bit where one flavor is more forward than the others. In this case, it hits the nail on the fucking head. 

Luke: I was looking at these beers like, everyone has their flavor spikes, one had the spike in the front but the dip in the end, some had their spikes in the middle, this one is just …

Solo: Unctuous. 

Luke: Yeah, everything is just up, down, here, there, all over your palate.

Solo: This one is consistent, but it does undulate forward, a little bit in the middle, and it just hits right off the back.

Luke: Yeah, because you can taste very much the barrel aged and everything else.

Solo: You get your chocolate, you get your fucking coffee, your barrel, you get your stout. You can taste a little bit of the malted grains themselves in there, too.

Luke: It’s a full-flavored beer for sure. 

Solo: Might be a pain in the ass to brew, but damn it’s delicious.

Nomicon: We need to find a cave to age a stout in. 

Solo: You’re not wrong, we could make our own cave.

Nomicon: We could …

Solo: I have … land!

Laughter ensues followed by the sounds of the Bren Gun blasting at full volume in the background and drowning us all out as we were watching Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels at the time.

Luke: That should be the end of our tasting.

More laughter.

Nomicon: And, end scene.

Solo: That was the Bren Gun!

Stout: Aaaaaand we’re back!

Nomicon: Yep, that was the Bren Gun. The bourbon’s more forward on this one, too. It’s less mellow and more like you are drinking something that’s been sitting with bourbon. It’s been playing well, it’s been playing nice, but not that nice. 

Solo: It’s got that lovely little bit of almost caramel/crystal malt flavor from the bourbon that’s just beautifully cutting through the bitter chocolate, the somewhat astringent but not overly astringent black malts.

Nomicon: I think it’s got a little more roast and a little bit of other notes coming out. A little bit of leather coming out.

Solo: Hell bent for leather.

Luke: A little leather and tobacco.

Nomicon: Denim and leather!

Solo: Have we got a traffic warden?

We then rambled on the topic of upcoming metal shows including Goatwhore (May 11) concluding with the upcoming Converge appearance in our neck of the woods.

Nomicon: I am going to murder so many fucking people. 

Solo: That’s definitely going in the article.

Nomicon: I haven’t been to a Converge show in years and the last time I did I broke my fucking ribs at that show because someone fucking kicked me. I was still fucking jumping on stage. 

Solo: I think we finally got the KBS that we were told existed, the one that was hinted at, whispered about, the unicorn. This is all melded together wonderfully.

Luke: Ahab’s whale.

We then descended into a chaotic maelstrom of conversation, including our favorite Avery stouts, more metal, and so on and so forth. What did you expect? It’s us. Well, that about does it for this year’s mini KBS vertical and review. Our overall consensus is that you should go forth and procure the ’18 posthaste and enjoy the beastly stout in all of its burly glory, ere the coffee fades and the monster loses some of its rage. From all of us at Darkside we wish you eternal hails and good ales!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

Resinous hops abide behind the haze at Red Door

Posted: April 23, 2018 by Franz Solo in Beer Review
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Get thee to Red Door for a pint of New England IPA while it lasts!

Franz Solo checking in. I just happened to try the first new beer to come from Red Door’s new brewer Matt Meier (full feature on him is coming Tuesday, FYI) and I enjoyed it so thoroughly as to inspire a springtime outburst of my so called “Viking Poetry” or some such rubbish. What follows is my encounter with the simply-titled New England IPA (no sports affiliation of any kind, as I was happily informed) from Red Door, which checks in at over 100 IBU and in the 7-percent ABV echelon. 

As I began my lupulin escapades on Friday the 20th of April, after a brew day for Battle of the Beer Geeks at Tractor in the morning, I procured my first pint and dove headfirst into a veritable galaxy of hops. The aroma is of a melange consisting of tangerines, lemons, Spanish orange trees (reminding me of the gardens at the Alhambra), and ruby red grapefruit, melded with cannabis-like resins to finish it off. Sort of a lemon haze or orange kush comes to mind, if you catch my drift on the 1620, or was it 710 reversed? Never mind.

Grapefruit finishes off each draught, and the kind of pith that lingers with notes of tangerine rind. This has a lovely mouthfeel from start to finish, with a strong mellow front, a mid-palate that builds to the dry, wonderfully bitter finish. It’s the best of both worlds, where this deftly balances between a New Mexico-style hop bomb, and also a silky East Coast juice bomb. Lots of dank pine on the aroma swims around the edges with a strong kick of almost orange dreamsicle in the middle.

One can also take the New England IPA home and enjoy it outdoors on a pleasant spring afternoon.

This is my kind of beer in the hoppy vein, resins flowing from the fingertips, loads of West Coast gargle blaster hops straight outta … er… what day is this? Is this Saturday? Clearly my assignment had gotten the better of my attorney; he was off jabbering about reptiles as we were bumping old gangsta rap circa ‘92. The wave crested and flowed back for a moment. This beer, it rides like a smooth drag at high speed with the top down, just enjoying the open air and some damn fine scenery. The forest of citrus-themed hops was combined and blended, and then it went on a vision quest, and when it returned like in a haze we dazed in the hammock of early spring winds and the rain and my thoughts were given over to a long-desired wandering. Yes.

The finish is all grapefruit and cannabis resin, as dank and bitter as you demand, you who are bitter and you like it (we know who we are). Slight lemon notes as an ending here as well, much akin to the grapefruit beyond grapefruit onward to the edge of bitterness. The front end of this is a blast of juice, but the back two-thirds are an old-school swing for the fences explosion of hops. This reminds me of burly Two Hearted from Bell’s meets fresh-squeezed hop juice (if only that was a thing). In my opinion, this is the brunch of hop drinks suitable for a luxurious weekend out in a hammock, enjoying the twitter of spring birds and mild breezes. Much like our native spring, however, it will not last long, so grab a pint and breathe deeply while you enjoy this aromatic delight.

Skål!

— Franz Solo

New head brewer Randy King is happy to be home and at the helm of Nexus.

Over the span of the past few months, Nexus Brewery has experienced the transition from head brewer Kaylynn McKnight, who is now with the forthcoming Toltec Brewing, to new head brewer Randy King. I sat down with Randy on a lovely spring evening over a few samples of what he had on tap, including our stalwart favorites and a few new recipes to boot. Irish Red was up first. We also talked about the transition and what else is to come for Nexus in 2018 and beyond in one of our final installments of the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2017-18.

Solo: Yeah, this is nice, crisp with just a hint of sweetness.

Randy: The idea here was to be as traditional as possible, nice and crisp and dry. I think it has turned out pretty well, nice and bright.

Solo: But, you do get that little bit of sweetness there, which is kind of that balancing act of lagers in general is finding that spot between too sweet and too bready or too dry. I think you did quite well with this.

Randy: The second one is New Mexico Snow (IPA), which is supposed to be a more aromatic beer with a good bit of citrus, some melon, and with a really light malt presence and color. On this one I’m really happy with how bright it came out.

Solo: That is super bright, very crisp, and easy drinking.

Randy: This one is the anti-kick-you-in-the-mouth IPA, the smooth IPA where you get all of the florals from the hops.

Solo: It has that resinous character to it rather than the bitter kick.

Randy: Those hop oils are really shining through. That was really the goal, to let the hops shine in this beer instead of having more malt presence, have the malts just in the background.

Solo: Doing later hop additions mostly? (Later additions tend to add less bitterness and more aroma and tropical flavors from hops as the oils are not all boiled out as you would get from a longer boil time.)

Randy: Yeah, a lot of late additions, a lot of Citra in this beer with a significant dry hopping as well. That one was inspired by 3 Floyds’ Arctic Panzer Wolf. (A ludicrous double IPA from the creators of Zombie Dust and Crew favorite Dark Lord.)

Solo: You kind of have to in order to get the aroma you are going for. That’s kind of the name of the game for a lot of these up-and-coming IPAs these days with super-late additions for hops, almost no bitterness. That stylistic shift is somewhat of a precursor you could say to the NEIPA style. This actually kind of reminds me of a beer that Stoutmeister and I had up at Comrade Brewing on the south side of Denver where they had a golden ale hopped with Citra, which gave this same sort of delightful crispness.

Randy: Nice, I know those guys are well known for their IPAs. You ready to try this next one? All right, so this is our Hot Chocolate Porter.

Solo: There is a helluva lot of chocolate in there, nice little kick in the back, too. You were going for something with a little bit of spice in it?

Randy: It’s got 20 pounds of cocoa and 30 pounds of lactose in there, and some cayenne to finish.

Solo: Cayenne does pretty well with spicing. I just did an imperial stout myself with a little cayenne and red chile, and the same thing with this porter, it gets that nice, warming tickle in the back of your throat, but it’s not overpowering in terms of flavor. This tastes just like Mexican hot chocolate, very good.

Randy: It is interesting to find the balance with the cayenne, because you can get too much in there pretty easily. I love New Mexico green chile, but I’ve had a hard time finding a green chile beer that I like.

Solo: It’s kind of funny because every time I meet a new brewer in town I say please give me a good green chile beer.

Randy: So have you found any yet?

Solo: Not anything that is regularly available, unfortunately.

Randy: So I’m actually really pleased with how all three of these seasonal beers turned out; of course the consumer is going to decide ultimately, but I’m really happy with them.

Solo: I can definitely sort of see your take on things in these, your own style coming through with your own nuances that differ a bit from Kaylynn before you. I think you are stamping out on your own pretty quickly which is excellent.

Randy: Kaylynn is awesome, she’s a super cool person. She did a lot of great things here and she’s been really nice to help me with questions and any problems I’ve had over here and really set a good base for me step into. I’m looking forward to trying her stuff out at Toltec Brewing.

The Hot Chocolate Porter is pretty much as advertised, and delicious, too.

We then turned somewhat to Randy’s background as a brewer and a bit about his take on everything from different styles to the Great American Beer Festival.

Randy: I was a hophead for a really long time, and I do love my IPAs, but the longer I’ve been a brewer, I’ve really started to appreciate lagers and pilsners more and more.

Solo: Yep, right there with you. I started off drinking Stone back in the early 2000s, but these days well, the last couple I brewed are a Schwarzbier and a Pilsner.

Randy: Something you can cruise with, rather than the hard and quick end-your-night beer, with those you can just cruise for awhile.

Solo: Yardwork beer is what I call it a lot of the time.

Randy: Like a lawnmower beer. You mentioned Stone. I used to live out there in San Diego, so we would visit Stone and Green Flash back in the day.

Solo: So where are you from originally?

Randy: I grew up in Belen and went to Belen High School, and then went off to college. I’ve been gone for about 20 years and moved back in January. My mom is here and I’ve got a brother and a sister, nieces and nephews that live here.

Solo: You’ve come full circle in a sense, returned to your original home. What brought you to Nexus specifically?

Randy: It was a great opportunity where I would get some creative license. Interviewing with Ken (Carson), he seemed to be a very reasonable person to work with and he’s turned out to be a really fun person to work with. And then, to be blunt, my mom’s health isn’t great, so it was really nice to be able to get back and help her and help the family. I was brewing at Angry Inch Brewing in Lakeville, Minnesota, that is part of the Minneapolis metro area. That was a lot of fun, I love those guys, they are super cool, it’s a little 7-barrel place. I was at a production facility before that at 612 Brewing right by US Bank Stadium (home of the Minnesota Vikings), which was a good experience as well.

I started my commercial brewing in Boise, Idaho, so I’ve really kind of gone around the states a little bit. I’ve got some Pacific Northwest training. Ron Thomas, my head brewer in Boise, was amazing, and then I got some really good experience in Minneapolis, so I have those influences from there. I actually took Tom Hennessy’s course years ago, so I do have some Albuquerque training as well because he was one of the original partners in Il Vicino. That’s my brewing history in a nutshell.

We discussed a bit on the topic of Nexus’s GABF medal-winning Honey Chamomile Wheat and Imperial Cream Ale (not to fear, these recipes will assuredly remain the same great beers you know and love) alongside our Brew Crew experience this past year, and Randy had this to say about GABF.

Randy: Speaking of GABF, I’ve got to say that I’m a veteran of GABF. Last year was my 20th year at GABF.

Solo: That is, well, impressive.

Randy: I know my way around there pretty well, it has been a lot of fun. I’ve got a group of friends that all go up together and we do all of the sessions and I plan on doing it again this year.

Solo: That’s quite the commitment.

Randy: Yeah, I missed one year out of 21 years. I figure I’ve got to be up there as far as attending since it is 36 years old now, so I’ve got to be in the top 10 percent of most attended at this point. I don’t know what that gets me, but hey.

Solo: You’ve gotten to see firsthand the changes over time of this whole industry, community, all of the different trends, coming and going.

As far as the look ahead and what we can expect from Nexus in the coming year, Randy and I covered everything from the upcoming anniversary, anticipated upcoming seasonal beer styles, and expansion.

Randy: So I do have some ideas for beers in the future, (including) a New England IPA. Ken really wants to do a big, nasty IPA, so a big, bitter, kick-you-in-the-mouth kind of IPA.

Solo: Kind of our state standard at this point.

Randy: Our anniversary party is coming up (in May), so we are talking about doing a smoked stout for that.

Solo: We haven’t had a good smoked stout in a while here. We’ve had porters that were good, but a stout would be nice as well.

Randy: The idea of it is kind of for our new location, which is Nexus Blue Smokehouse, which will be a barbecue smokehouse (that) I’m excited about. It is going to make my job harder keeping up with production, but I live down that way so I can eat more barbecue. That’s one of the best perks about working here is that the food is fantastic, so that’s a pretty good deal.

Solo: Yeah, we’ve been coming here for years and enjoyed the chicken and waffles and pretty much everything else that we’ve tried. (We are) definitely excited for the new location as well.

Randy: So those are on the radar, and then I want to do a gose, a lemon wheat beer, and a barleywine. Gose is a style that I have a real personal interest in making because I think it is a really fun style. It’s delicious and on a hot day there’s not much that is better. Your lawnmower beer is great, too, but to have a nice, tart beer on a warm day is fantastic. Those are kind of the ones on my radar right now. The new smokehouse is going to be great as well.

Solo: Is there an official date for the opening?

Randy: It is supposed to be around three months out.

Summertime BBQ and Smokehouse, you say? Count us in! If the standard offerings at both Nexus locations are any indication, we are in for a real treat with the prospects of brisket and ribs from the forthcoming Nexus Blue Smokehouse.

We then tackled the topic of the brewhouse, which Stoutmeister noted in his book, Albuquerque Beer: Duke City History on Tap, has had a long run since its first use at Assets Grille in the 1990s.

Randy: Me stepping here and learning this brewhouse, I’ve been here two months and I’m starting to get in a much better groove now to understand this brewhouse.

Solo: There is always going to be that learning curve. Every system has its own little tweaks, its own little changes, and you ever have to change a piece of equipment you are going to have to go through that same learning process again. You really get to know the ins and outs, the nuance.

Randy: Yeah, for sure, we’ve been talking about upgrading a lot of this (brewhouse equipment) and that could happen in the next year. We might go to 15 barrels instead of all of those 7-barrel fermenters we’ve got back there. Of course if we go to 15s then all of the 7-barrel brite tanks would be outta here, and we’d do 15-barrel brite tanks all around the brewhouse. The brewhouse itself could get upgraded to a 15-barrel as well. That might actually be the first piece, (but) we will see. There’s talk of those upgrades so it will be fun.

* * * * *

It all sounds like fun indeed, from some tasty sounding seasonal brews, a possible brewhouse upgrade, and the upcoming opening of Nexus Blue Smokehouse. We are excited for the delicious offerings that will assuredly be coming our way in all forms of delectable smoked meats and the requisite accoutrements to boot. Rest assured, Nexus is in great hands with Randy and we in the Crew cannot wait to see what he’s got coming our way in the remainder of this year. So dear reader, when the need for soul food and some fine beverages strikes your fancy, you simply cannot go wrong with a day spent in the Nexus.

Live long, and prosper.

— Franz Solo

The site of a future brewery on Highway 14 south of Santa Fe.

I first met Rich Headley of Crossed Sabers Hops and the forthcoming Beer Creek Brewing Company this past November at the inaugural meeting of the Agri-Brew Roundtable for hop growers, breweries, and farmers alike. From just this meeting alone I knew Rich was an exuberant, knowledgable, and resourceful character of just the kind we need in the brewing community.

At his invitation, Stoutmeister and I headed up just south of Santa Fe to visit the site of the soon-to-be minted Beer Creek Brewing. Rich has been around the brewing community for some time now, having worked on building various brewery systems with his previous business, and he got the idea to start a brewery of his own after his friend Rod Tweet (of Second Street Brewing) suggested that he needed to be a brewer after having tasted his homebrews over the years. As Rich put it, the process all snowballed from there with the creation of Crossed Sabers Hop Company, and then procuring the right location for his brewery it’s been quite a wild ride.

The rustic exterior sets the mood.

The historical stone-fronted building (formerly the Raven Rock Cafe) which will house both the brewery and pub lies just off of Highway 14 south of Santa Fe on the road to Cerrillos and Madrid. The charm of the location is palpable, with a classic rustic flair, and breathtaking views of the mountains from the south side of the building, which is also where the brewhouse will be located (not a bad view for a brewer at all).

It’s rather rustic inside, too.

The interior will undergo significant renovation to modernize the space, while leaving a good deal of the original character of the space intact. There was no word yet on what sort of beers we are to expect initially, but we anticipate good things to come from here given what we discussed about brewing and such. The walled-in flagstone outdoor patio on the west side of the building is quite spacious, with established trees for shade, a large fireplace, a fountain, and access to power for potential live music all of which should make for a lovely biergarten in the future.

Eventually there will be a brewhouse in this room, not just Stoutmeister talking to the owners.

The plan is to keep some of the multi-room aspect of the house, with a main bar area and other separate rooms, each with their own vibes. There is a full kitchen on site, from which they will start making their own pizza with a full menu of pub food to follow. Just off the kitchen is a patio that came with a large smoker for making BBQ, ribs and the like (sounds like a delight to us in the Crew), which will come a bit later as well. The brewhouse area is just south of the kitchen and will be a 5-barrel system. The stated intention is to open late winter/early spring of this year, starting with house-made pizza sales to be followed by the full opening of the brewery later this year.

This is not a small outdoor patio.

We were also invited to visit the Crossed Sabers Hop farm, which is ambitious in both scale and scope, and raring to expand if all goes to plan (which looks quite promising). The goal is to potentially double yield from this year to next year, and then the sky’s the limit. Currently being grown on site are Centennial, Brewers Gold, Cascade, Chinook, and Columbus, which form the backbone of many of our American-style brews from pale ales to stouts alike.

The 2018 hop crop was a long way from being planted yet, but the harvester is ready to go.

The group of individuals involved in both the hop growing and brewery venture are excellent friends and as close as it gets to a large family, so it certainly seems that planning and delegation of tasks and responsibilities was done quite well in advance. Rich serves as the organizer and front man for the group. Ryan McArdle is the designated CFO (chief financial officer), while his wife Caitlin is the ranch foreman and hop wrangler. Kelly McGuire will serve as the sales manager. Peter Goodwin and Matt Olev are the primary owners, with Olev as serving as the general manager of the ranch where the hops are grown. Jami Nordby, who recently cut his teeth with Rowley Farmhouse Ales, will be the head brewer.

We look forward to seeing what comes of both of these endeavors. We will have more on both Beer Creek Brewing and Crossed Sabers Hop Co. as we get more information on a finalized opening date, and as the hop-growing season moves along.

Until our next adventure,

Skål!

— Franz Solo