Author Archive

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

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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
Tags:

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

Nom nom barleywine!

Thanks to our friends at Ska Brewing in Durango, we in the crew were delighted recipients of a bottle of their barrel-aged Ska Face Barleywine. A quorum of Stoutmeister, myself (Franz Solo), and Cryptogrind gathered to enjoy this lovely winter warmer.

Take note, Ska Face will be available today (Friday) from 5 to 8 p.m. at Sister as part of a tap takeover by the brewery. Also available are Sour Apple Gose, Pink Vapor Stew, True Blonde, and Bad Hop Contract.

To help everyone make up their minds as to whether or not to attend, we present our rambling discourse from Tuesday evening.

Crypt: I can smell the booze on this from here.

Solo: Holy hell! Bourbon!

Crypt: Bourbon, dried fruit, you get raisin right away.

Solo: Oh yeah, that tart, whiskey sour mash kind of flavor. It’s a little floral initially, too.

Crypt: Smells like corn!

(Laughter ensues.)

Stout: Korn!

Solo: Delicious creamed corn!

Crypt: Not the corn! Ah, Willie’s gonna have his legs broke!

(Further laughter ensues.)

Stout: That’s delicious.

Crypt: On a different level, layers of sweetness.

Solo: You get tart, and then sweet, and then earthy, and then yummy.

Crypt: So the booze I don’t get a lot on the palate, honestly. It’s not overly hot like it kind of smells like it should be. But, it’s pretty complex in the flavor, because there’s a ton of whiskey right up front, but it doesn’t burn. You get a ton of oak and sour whiskey comes through.

Solo: Vanilla is starting to come through a lot as well.

Crypt: There’s like five different kinds of sweetness there with a little bit of caramel, and it’s like if the huckleberries were too tart, you just dust them with confectioner’s sugar, that kind of thing.

Stout: It is not overly chewy, but I still like the mouthfeel.

Solo: Yeah, it fills the mouth, but it is not a single blast at any spot. Rather, it coats everything.

Stout: It does linger and in a good way; there’s not a bad aftertaste to this at all.

Crypt: It has this light toffee and caramel sweetness light coating that’s really nice.

Stout: It’s more the beer itself and not necessarily the barrel.

Solo: And, it just warms you so nicely. It gives me that little bit of chest burn like you get from a good whiskey or strong winter ale.

Crypt: What kind of yeast did they use in this? I’m getting different kind of fruity notes in the finish that are just really neat.

Stout: Well, it’s an English-style yeast that they use up there.

Crypt: It is pretty unique as far as the finish goes.

Solo: Yeah, it is kind of like the dried cherries that my dad has from his yard, but sweeter like they were injected with huckleberries.

Crypt: We should put that on a banana splice, er split.

(We proceed to discuss excellent sci-fi movies including Blade Runner 2049 and The Cell before returning to the task at hand.)

The bottle even came with this handy sheet of fun facts.

Stout: Thank you, Ska.

Solo: Yes, thank you, Ska. The beer smells sweeter than it actually tastes, likely from the slight tart sourness of the whiskey barrel that balances with what would be otherwise a very, very sweet beer.

Stout: Agreed.

Crypt: Purple monkey dishwasher.

Stout: Drink this while skiing Purgatory! This is very much a winter skiing beer.

Crypt: I’d wash it down with a tall, cool glass of hot dog. Wait …

(The late, great Harry Caray then enters discussion, as is typical of these gatherings, and we rambled a bit about the delicious brews and food available in Chicago.)

In conclusion, among barrel-aged barleywines this one is a strong and unique example of a tart and medium sweet, English-style winter warmer, with many distinct and delightful notes of vanilla, sour whiskey, and various dried fruits. The flavor and aroma linger with the best of ’em and the mouthfeel is excellent. We heartily recommend you seek this quintessential winter skiing/snowboarding beer.

Thanks, once again, to our friends at Ska Brewing for sending us a sample!

Skål!

— Solo, Stoutmeister, Cryptogrind

One big beer year at Turtle Mountain will blend into another in 2018.

Franz Solo here, recapping when I headed up the hill to Rio Rancho for Turtle Mountain’s entry in our Look Back/Look Ahead Series on an unsuspecting Wednesday, and was greeted with a splendid variety of seasonal beers ranging from the tartest pink cranberry sours to the maltiest of burly smooth barleywines. My first interview was with head brewer Mick Hahn.

Solo: So, another year has passed and here we are looking back and looking ahead. You’ve been through a year, what have you learned? What are your successes? What would you like to do better, and what goals do you have for the coming year?

Mick: I’ve definitely learned a lot. I would say I take each batch with the notion of what can I learn from this. We just brewed a new batch of Hopshell IPA yesterday that I completely renovated the hop bill on it based on how we brewed Capspackler DIPA. Capspackler was a very adventurous imperial IPA for us to brew, it got close to 10 pounds of hops per barrel.

Solo: So you’re shooting the upper echelon of what other breweries are doing with their IPAs here in town.

Mick: With Hopshell we’re definitely not pushing up to that, but the way that we allocated those hops in the brew of Capspackler, that had more of an effect on what I’m doing with Hopshell now. How can we make it a little more balanced, a little more flavorful without losing a whole lot? It had a first-wort hop addition, a 90-minute hop addition, and then a 15 and a whirlpool. I don’t understand why we had it so split on the two ends of the boil. It was at 100 IBUs and about 60 IBUs were (lost) in the very beginning of the boil. That seems just wasteful to me; it gives it us real strong bitter punch that lingers as bitterness, but it really doesn’t fill out the flavor of that beer. And then, the hops on the back end gave it a bit of a ‘poof’ of flavor, but it subsides really quickly. So we kind of drew it out and dropped down on the early additions. We dropped the 90-minute addition and brought in a 60-minute addition, brought in a 30-minute addition and built up those hops towards the end instead of just having them on two sides of the brew. I think it will be much more appealing, much more of a consistent beer.

Solo: I’m doing somewhat of the same thing on the homebrewing front where I’m learning that there is a definite rhyme and reason to having a hop addition at one time versus another time, and what different variations in timing and quantity can really do to craft a particular flavor profile in different styles of beer. Especially these days in IPAs where you are likely going for that super juicy and fruit or floral flavor. Now it’s additions at 60 minutes or later and split, so that most additions are made closer to the end of your boil time so you aren’t losing that resin, that passionfruit or mango, and so forth in the face of too much bitterness.

Mick: Yesterday, we got our first round of the new hop bill of Hopshell done and it’s just a 10-barrel batch. Usually the Hopshell is being done in double batches and so we are going to brew another batch next week, (and then) do a double batch and kind of swing the hop bill back to where it was previously, but try to find a good middle ground between the two practices.

Solo: (After taking a sip of Capspackler DIPA) Good lord! What did you have in mind making this one?

Mick: So I did that one as a collaboration with Andrew Krosche (currently at Kellys, formerly of Chama River and Marble), and really we just did it kind of as a way to play around with hops and use a massive quantity of them and see what we could do. So each of us contributed two varieties of hops and we split the allocation, so it was even amounts of each of the four hops throughout. We did a first wort, a 60, a 30, a 15, and a whirlpool addition, and increased the amount of them each time. We started with half a pound of each of them at first wort, a pound of them at 60, two pounds at 30, and then just kept escalating until it was 10 pounds of each for the dry hop, so a 40-pound dry hop in a 10-barrel batch.

Solo: Craziness.

Mick: We yielded a little over seven barrels from it. Ten pounds per barrel is what it ended up being. It is my favorite IPA that I’ve made yet, and it excites me to make more experimental IPAs and really play with hop combinations and see what can evoke. Because for that one we did Summit, Mosaic, Amarillo, and Sorachi Ace, four of the stinkiest hops you can get. And then, they come together to make this insanely juicy fruity beer with resiny pine as an undertone. Capspackler is fantastic and it hides 9.5-percent ABV really well. I’ve heard a few of the servers in here fall in love with it who hate IPAs saying, yeah, this is pretty good. I was the same way, I never liked IPAs until I started drinking double IPAs or imperial IPAs. I think they are a much better balanced beer that showcase the hops in a much better way than most IPAs out there. Really, with Hopshell I’m trying to get it to the point where it’s as balanced and delicious as most of the double IPAs out there. Keeping it at 7-to-7.2-percent ABV, which is still a high-end IPA.

Solo: (After taking a deep quaff of Capspackler) That’s an interesting combination with the Sorachi Ace especially. The other three kind of make sense together, and then you throw that in there and it’s something really unique.

Mick: The Summit and the Amarillo are the two that I threw in, and Andrew had the Sorachi Ace and the Mosaic. We said alright, let’s go!

Solo: Let’s make an interesting tapestry of things that probably hasn’t been done very often if at all.

Mick: I get a little bit of grassiness from the Sorachi Ace and probably from the Summit, too. But, I don’t think it’s like taking a bag of grass clippings and adding them, I think it’s more like your neighbor just mowed their lawn and you can still catch a hint of that aroma and flavor.

Solo: It’s kind of like you went to an orchard and picked a little bit of every type of fruit that they had, and took a bite of each with each sip that you are taking. Pretty cool. It’s like the everlasting gobstopper of IPAs.

Mick: So what else did I learn and enjoy this year? Really, I have had so much fun brewing all of the beers this year. We’ve had a really diverse set of stuff coming out from the three different Yum Yums (kettle sours) we did over the summer, finishing with the Cosmic Yum Yum. We did two beers earlier this year playing around with toasted coconut, those were both a lot of fun, especially the Yum-Yum Colada. I thought that was a fantastic play on kettle sours and fruited beers, that was one of my favorites that I’ve ever brewed. I’m excited to brew that one again this year. We have some ideas for more kettle sours to try and keep expanding with what we’ve got going on. Tying into how we can best utilize our kitchen with the brewhouse, that’s one of my favorite advantages I think we have over a lot of other breweries is having a full-functioning kitchen that is adventurous and knowledgeable and is willing to help us. They get excited about pairing different beers with different food ideas. I want to get their help on more cask ideas and cask preparation, so that we can do some really good combinations of flavors.

Solo: Set up a good meal to go with a good cask.

Mick: Or to say, I picked up different clove, nutmeg, and ginger and oranges this morning, so that I can dose a cask. I think it would be great to have the kitchen on board to either give me those ideas or help in the preparation of the ingredients for the cask. A lot of what I’ve learned this year is the organization of the brewery, things coming in and things going out, timelines. How to maximize the efficiency of the brewery and keep everything looking great and tasting delicious.

Solo: Last year, there wasn’t particularly much in the way of maintenance on the brewery. You had it pretty well dialed in for what you were wanting.

Mick: There was a little bit of stuff where we got our steam piping renovated, because that was around a decade old. We got a new condenser, as well, and I think it has definitely improved the performance of our boiler and our steam jackets.

Head brewer Mick Hahn has had fun playing around with hops in the past year.

We then looked at what beers were being sent to this year’s World Beer Cup.

Solo: So, you’ve got two lagers (Wooden Teeth and Can’t Catch Me), a porter, and a barleywine.

Mick: We’ll do another batch of the porter before we send that one in. We’ve got a couple of tweaks on that one, but I’m pretty happy with how that came out this time.

Solo: Yeah, you’ve got a good solid base on this one. It’s very porter-y, it is not stoutish, it’s a porter for sure. You get that strong first half on your palate, and then the rest just washes back very nicely and cleanly as a good porter should.

Mick: It gives you a lot of fruit, a good amount of chocolate, and a little bit of coffee without getting too roasted.

Solo: In which case this would be a stout. (After a sip of Depravity Barleywine) I remember having this one just before it came out last year and then at this year’s New Mexico Brewfest, it has definitely changed in character over the course of a year.

Mick: I think I’m going to take be taking a keg of it to WinterBrew as well. I love that beer. (Editor’s note: He did take some. It was glorious. — S)

After trying a few other samples and discussing the merits of different types of red or amber lagers, which we both thoroughly enjoy (check out Can’t Catch Me if you haven’t!), we forged ahead looking at Turtle’s successes this past year.

Mick: Probably our biggest success this past year was the acquisition of our distribution license. We finally got that in, it took, coming up on 19 years now. We finally got some kegs that say Turtle Mountain on them. I think we’ve already doubled our total keg count since getting them initially. So we do have our beer pouring at Indigo Crow, that’s so far the only real expansion we’ve done with the distribution license, but little by little we are starting to pour beer elsewhere than the pub itself, and hopefully we will get some more tap handles out and get Turtle Mountain a little more recognized. It is amazing how often at festivals and whatnot (that) we still get people that say, “I’ve never even heard of you.” We’ve been in the same place for almost 20 years, or at least within a quarter mile of the same exact location.

Here be the kegs for TMBC’s first run at distribution.

Solo: People in this town, being that there is so much sprawl and not much mass transit, that is one of the biggest problems for getting out to new places. You’re on one side of town (and) if you don’t have a presence on the other side of town, then often people aren’t going to know about you. It’s just kind of the name of the game for business in this town, which is unfortunate because we have so many gems that get hidden on the hill.

Mick: But, I do enjoy us being a fairly, like you said, a hidden gem. It’s nice to not be overcrowded and be able to actually stand at the pub and have a beer without having to recluse myself to the brewery to escape everyone and too many things going on.

Solo: Yeah, the nice thing about here is that it has maintained that comfortable pub vibe in spite of the onset of changing times.

Mick: Even when we are 20 tickets deep, it is still a comfortable environment and I don’t feel overwhelmed here. Another big success was being able to nix pumpkin beer from our lineup this year and not have to brew that. That made me happy. Really, that just came down to the timeline, we were already backed up on specials coming into September and so that was the easiest thing to swap out.

Solo: We’re going to do a proper Oktoberfest instead.

Mick: Exactly! I would much rather do an Oktoberfest, and then we had the porter coming out and I think Cosmic Yum Yum is a really fantastic take on kind of a holiday beer. It goes great with cranberry sauce. You could sit down and have a turkey leg and a glass of the Yum Yum and be pretty content. We had a lot of fun brewing the Rise of Fall last year and doing a bunch of butternut squash in the oven, but I had a few things we wanted to tweak on that and didn’t really solidify any of them in time to do it. So now, I have a whole other year to make sure our pumpkin beer is great and we will do our best to schedule with some of the farmers so we can get butternut squash (at) the beginning of August. That will be fantastic, so that we can get that beer out by September and not have it sell out before Thanksgiving. That would make me quite happy.

Another big success, I would say, is the updating of the (food) menu. They got that out a couple of weeks ago with some fantastic dishes on there. The ribs are quite tender, you can just pull the bone straight out of the meat, it makes you happy. The fish tacos are fantastic, (and) the pork skewers with the pineapple habanero glaze that they’ve got whipped up is also available on the wings now. They’ve got a couple of other new wing sauces on there. We’ve got our charcuterie board on there, called turtle tidbits, with a variety of cheeses including house-made mozzarella which we are making daily. They’ve also been featuring that fresh cheese on one of the pizzas as well with the pomodoro sauce. We’ve also added the pomodoro sauce and an alfredo sauce both added to the pizza menu, so you can use those sauces as a base and build your own pizza in addition to the couple of new pizzas that have those featured. So we’ve got a handful of new options.

As for the year ahead, our biggest challenge is going to be construction on Southern Boulevard. They’ll be working on it pretty much all year starting in February and going through December. They will tear up on half of the road for six months, and then it will be one lane in each direction for the better part of 2018. Which is not going to make it easy to get in and out of here, so we are working on what we can to make sure that business stays steady through it and it doesn’t affect us too much. I believe Turtle has a loyal enough following that it won’t deter that many people. Hopefully we can win some medals at World Beer Cup and inspire some people to want to come in.

As far as the beer lineup is concerned, I’m really happy with the diversity of it. We’ve got lots of options in beers ranging from 4-percent up to 10-percent ABV, and from 18 IBUs up to 125 or more. We’ve got some stops all throughout it, a bunch of different colors, even pink.

Solo: There’s nothing wrong with pink. This last year was at least here in town an explosion of the kettle sour and it was just everywhere all year round.

Mick: I’ve been doing my best with the Yum Yum variants to keep the kettle sours exciting and not just, well, it’s a fruited gose. I want something with a little more depth, and so I’ve definitely tried with the Yum Yums to push the boundaries of what I can make a beer to be. I love hearing people say, “Whoa, this is beer?” and I say, “Hell yeah, this is beer.”

* * * * *

Shortly after speaking with Mick, I was able to sit down with owner Nico Ortiz and get his take on 2017-2018 for Turtle Mountain.

Solo: So, another year, another look back, look ahead for Turtle Mountain.

Nico: 2017 was a good year. We had Mick for his first full year so the beers are solid. Production remains flat with us being a one-unit place; we don’t have any offsite taprooms to bolster production. We got a new menu out, a revised menu which is good. (In) 2017 we didn’t open any new taprooms, no new much of anything, but I guess with Chama’s closure we now remain the oldest brewpub/restaurant brewery in the (metro area). We have somewhat of a source of pride for that. In 2018, we are finally going to sink some roots in for our taproom. We are still looking just like everybody else is saying, we are still looking at a place. I’d like to keep it on the west side, but the west side from our experience, looking at available spaces is tough. You either have the issue of churches or schools (nearby), and you’ve also got the issue of flat out, there’s just not a lot of available commercial space that is suitable for taprooms. There are issues of zoning; Rio Rancho is pretty uncomplicated with zoning, but we looked at one place that had three different zoning classes in one strip mall.

Solo: Which does happen here.

Nico: One of them allowed the sale of alcohol, but one of them required a restaurant license, no taproom licenses. It was crazy and I said this is the same center, but there were three different sets of rules. It is definitely complicated, but the big thing for 2018 is that the City of Rio Rancho is going to be completely rebuilding Southern Boulevard starting in March and going through March of 2019. That’s going to seriously restrict traffic here. I don’t think it is going to be as bad as the ART project, but 36th Place (where the brewpub is located) only has one way in and one way out, that’s the problem.

The rest of Southern Boulevard, the reconstruction zone you can get at from side streets from the north or south, and so we are busy working with the city to try to get access to the parking lot by the library that we used to have. The timeliness of the taproom is key because as revenue goes down here, we need to bring in the revenue from somewhere else, because a place this big cannot simply cut revenues and expect it to still function. So it is very very important for us to get a portion of that lost revenue back from a taproom because just the mortgage on this place is big. So that’s our big thing for the year. Also Mick, just like Tim (Woodward), is frustrated because we only have one place. The throughput on the beer is really regulated by how much beer we can sell here, whereas if we could kick beer off and sell it to a taproom then that’s good, because he can actually get more beer through the pipeline and have more specials and things like that.

We have our wholesaler license in place. We’re slowly establishing some accounts locally in Corrales and a few in Rio Rancho. We got an order of kegs in so we have some stuff going on, but along with the kegs you have to have a delivery vehicle, you have to have a person cleaning lines, and then you have to have the accounting set up. So it’s not just as easy as simply filling kegs and selling them. The license was the easy part.

Solo: It is setting up the infrastructure as we’ve discussed.

Feast upon the new food items on the TMBC menu.

Nico: Exactly, so 2018 that will definitely happen and we will be peddling more of our wares around the area. In March, we will turn 19, so we are not quite at the 20-year club, but 19 years is still pretty solid. I should have probably been a little farther ahead than where I am right now, but we had a couple of issues. We had a taproom in the East Mountains from ’03 to ’05 that was silly, but I was young at that point. We had a restaurant taproom out in the Mariposa subdivision which was a little too far afield, and then we ran into the 2008 recession. So that was kind of bad timing. The next taproom is going to be well thought out, it is not going to be a calculated risk or an educated guess. We are going to put it someplace where it is going to work. I figure after 19 years I should know what the hell is going on. It took Rod up at Second Street Brewing awhile to get a taproom as well. They are (21) years old and they just finally got their Rufina Street facility.

Solo: Any plans for the anniversary as of yet?

Nico: Yeah, Mick and I are still working on the anniversary, but I think we are going to go back to our very first anniversary beer which was called Amnesia. It was a recipe actually built for us by one of our assistant brewers, kind of an Arrogant Bastard-inspired beer, so it was 8-percent ABV, 80 IBUs (that) used exclusively German Northern Brewer, and it had the unique quality of you have two or three pints of it and you would just forget the evening. It was weird in that I don’t know why it did it only being an 8-percent beer, not like 10- or 13-percent. Mick and I were going through the old recipe book and trying to figure it out. Everyone likes to do IPAs, double IPAs for their anniversary to the point that it’s kind of passé to do an IPA for an anniversary beer. I thought, let’s try something different, so Turtle having 19 years of brewing history, we have a lot of old recipes we can go through. The Amnesia is one of those beers where the last time we made it was years back, and we’ve kind of been integrating some throwback beers into our lineup.

Solo: Arsenal Porter for one.

Nico: Yeah, Arsenal Porter and the (Mr. Hoover’s) Steam, (plus) the Red Rye was an original beer. So it is kind of fun and it takes a little pressure off of Mick to dream up something interesting. The Amnesia is a solid beer and it does hearken back to the people that have been coming into Turtle Mountain all of these years. They will recognize it and it will be good. Then, in 2019 we have our 20th anniversary, so at that point we will have something much bigger. But, for this year we will have a brewer’s dinner, we will have the usual celebration. Not kind of like a week-long celebration that other breweries can get away with, but we will definitely have something good out here.

* * * * *

Good things are definitely in the works for the coming year, with great brews in the pipeline, an updated (and delicious) menu, a taproom hopefully nailed down by summertime, and the 19th anniversary coming in just a few short weeks. Cheers to another successful year on the hill, Turtle!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

These are festive times at Quarter Celtic!

A year and a half under their belts, the mad scientists behind Quarter Celtic continue to refine their beers and business alike, with an eye to more possibilities as the new year comes upon us. Stoutmeister and I sat down with the trio of David Facey, and Brady and Ror McKeown, to see what shenanigans they might be up to in 2018.

David: It’s kind of nice that business is doing what we expected the business to do, and now it’s time for us to start building again.

Ror: So today we were sitting down, looking forward as a group, but we will start with the look back. For us, life has been good, business has been great. The neighborhood has adopted us as their hangout, which is perfect because we’re a public house. We are really appreciative of that. We’ve got a ton of regulars now, which is really fun. Just over the past year we were kind of letting our personalities shape our pub’s atmosphere, so when you come in it just feels right, at least to me. We have a great staff, we enjoy everybody that works here, and everyone has a nice role here. From the front of the house to bartender (and) the waitstaff, and we credit those guys for helping us to build a business, and we’ve got a great group around us, we are very fortunate.

We also have fantastic beers, delicious food, (and) we just came out with a new revision to the menu a couple of weeks ago. These are all things that we just keep tweaking, which is nice, and then for us we need to keep it interesting for us to just want to come back every day and enjoy what we’re doing.

David: We have been doing this so long that we know it has to evolve, and it can’t evolve every five years, it’s got to be a constant evolution. With new menu items and new beers, our algorithm is pretty simple — just look at what people want.

Ror: Now that we’re not the new brewery in town, rather the old grizzled year and a half, we’ve got a ton of regulars and it was all word of mouth, which is fantastic. It still leaves us with plenty of opportunities and obstacles ahead of us, but things have kind of slowed down. In the beginning everything is a mad rush and you are just trying to figure it out on the fly and now it is just about fine tuning all of it, which makes it a little more fun. We feel that our hard work and consistency allows us to be successful; the beer has consistent quality, which is true to style. Food falls right with the beer, put us up against any other restaurant on the food side of things. Service is always the one that takes the longest, but I think since we got an established crew (now). When we started we kind of cut some of that learning curve down a little bit. Life’s been great.

Back to just the past year, in my mind we’ve already (created) some new signature beers that we’ve done like Clark. Brady’s actually the first one in New Mexico, or at least Albuquerque that we know of, to do the New England-style IPA.

Solo: Yeah as far as we know.

Ror: And, we’ve had a good time with those because we’ve done some spinoffs on Clark. Clark was so popular that we did a fresh-hopped Clark, which was fantastic, we got the hops just juiced. Then we did Clark Juiced*, which was a top-three finisher in this year’s IPA Challenge, which was great for a well-balanced beer because it wasn’t a hop forward, in-your-face kind of a thing. We were a bit disappointed we didn’t win with that one, because if we had one we had the asterisk at the end of it and we wanted to go “it was juiced!” That was a whole premise of the thing.

David: Yeah, it was totally a play on the whole baseball thing.

Solo: We definitely caught the whole sports reference there.

Ror: Right now we’ve got the Imperial Clark on draft and so having a good time with the New England style, it has become one of our customers’ favorites, and that’s one that will consistently show up on the beer board.

Mangose, we did the mango gose, and it was really kind of beginner’s luck on that first one. Our very first batch we entered in the Global Warming Open for the world’s most refreshing beer. We just watched the bracket all summer long, basically because instead of the March Madness 64 it was 128 different beers. So marching on through, we got to the finals, we finished in second place, but that’s really good out of 128 beers and that was the first time these guys did a gose so fantastic. We brewed it again since then and it has become a crowd favorite.

Brady: Yeah it was at GABF, and you know what we didn’t enter into the competition …

Ror: We had judges coming up and saying, “Yeah, this is definitely a medal contender,” and we had to say no, no it’s not. Unfortunately we didn’t enter that one, but we brought it to pour. We got great feedback on it, which was nice, and that’s the whole reason we go to GABF is to get that feedback, how you can get better. We were also talking to a few other breweries and we were talking about doing a collaboration called Competition Tears or something where all of the losing breweries get together and make a beer together.

Solo: That definitely sounds fun.

Brady: So this next year we are looking to expand something, we have three or four avenues that we are pursuing.

If there is to be an off-site taproom in the future, it will have a tough task of living up to the character of the main location.

David: So like Ror was saying, there’s a certain time period when you first open where it is just crazy. You’re putting out fires and dealing with the craziness while you are trying to brew beer and run a shift and you are trying to do it all while the chaos is happening all around you. Now, the wheels are turning and everything is pretty smooth. It has given all of us an opportunity to find out what other people are doing both around town and around the country. So we have some ideas on beer-related things that we can do in house, and that we don’t really see anybody else doing too much. Not only in town, but across the country.

Ror: On that note, some of the beers that our customers find as favorites and some of the things that we’d like to go forward with and expand upon (include) Irish Handcuffs. So our imperial stout, we were able to barrel age it, we are trying to find maybe some space where we could do more barrel aging because that’s always fun. Very pleased with how that one turned out. …

A couple of other beers that we really enjoyed this year was the Kill or be Kilt Scotch Ale, that one will be a frequent visitor to our draft system. GFF (Grapefruit Forever), or a GFFish beer, will be back as well. I’m not really a big IPA drinker, but I was really enjoying that imperial IPA.

Brady: We will be brewing a variation on that for the National IPA Challenge since they have the specialty IPA section for that competition.

Ror: A couple of house favorites including the Pedro O’Flannigan’s and our Crimson Lass. Those are two big ones on our wholesale side for the accounts we have, they are some of our top sellers.

Solo: This town wanted a Mexican Lager and an Irish Red.

Brady: Yeah, and all of a sudden there were seven.

Solo: You were trendsetters with those.

Ror: For expansion either it will be a taproom, but also on the wholesale side of things it leaves a lot of opportunities maybe a little different than you would expect out of what you think when you say wholesale. So we are looking at that. Some new spaces potentially in the near future. A lot of exciting opportunities going forward, we are excited how the past year and a half exceeded our expectations. Going into a market that’s heavily saturated, (we asked) so what’s out there business-wise for everyone. So the nice thing about us is that we are a neighborhood pub, we make fantastic beer, (and) we are very friendly with a lot of the other breweries.

Solo: Yeah, the camaraderie is strong.

Ror: That part is still there, even though people are fighting a little more for a share now since it is getting diluted a bit, but for us life’s been good. We really can’t complain (about) we are doing (and) what we like. We didn’t go into this to retire tomorrow, we are doing this because that is what we want to do, and we enjoy working with each other. The nice thing about being open for a while, coming up on our two-year anniversary on St. Patrick’s day, at least people know who we are now. They may not know where we are, but at least they know who we are.

(For those who still don’t know, the brewpub is located at the corner of Lomas and San Mateo at the Northeast end of the underground parking lot beneath ACE Hardware.)

Ror: Early in the year we did the Australian International (Beer) competition, so we got quite a few medals out of that one, so Brady’s beers are definitely popular Down Under. But, we also entered this year’s Beer Wars, strictly for the belt. So I don’t know if you guys saw our video with Macho Man and the Hopster (it is on YouTube, and it is amazing). In the Beer Wars you get medals and it’s a real competition, but if you win the overall thing, you get this big WWE-style gold plated belt. If we don’t win it I think we are going to have to buy one, because I need that for my Hopster costume with Macho Man and Nature Boy. Brady didn’t make it (to filming) that day. But, that would be a fun one where if we happen to win a competition or pull some medals there’s going to be a recurring skit just because it was fun.

Brady: So we still have not received word back from Mr. Full Nelson, because we were going to have Blue Demon go against the Hopster.

Ror: When (La Cumbre) released Full Nelson they did a YouTube video, so we challenged Blue Demon against the Hopster. So one of these days when they are getting ready to release Full Nelson we said let us know and we’ll brew our IPA and we’ll throw them in the ring and then we can do something great.

Solo: I think that’s fantastic.

Ror: Jeff (Erway), bring it. Hopster’s calling out Blue Demon. Our two IPAs in the death ring, the cage.

Solo: Two men enter, one man leaves.

Ror: Thunderdome! So yeah, hopefully that happens because we posted something on that and didn’t get a response, oddly enough. But, check that video out, it’s pretty funny.

Stoutmeister: So what was your reaction to the Australian awards, and what was the important thing about doing that? I know you guys wanted to start to understand where your beers fit best style wise, what categories, and that kind of thing. What did you get out of doing that?

Brady: Well, you enter competitions just to get feedback from somebody, so you look at Australia, I’m assuming, not from being there, from the history books right? It’s a lot of English influence, so a lot of the English and Irish beers are prevalent there, and I think that’s why ours did well because they sort of walk the same line that’s already there.

Solo: Kind of the culture that’s already there.

Brady: Yeah, exactly, but hops are just taking off down there. So I think they are softer, more stylistically correct for that population. We just did well because it is something that they are used to. Although our IPA did OK, too.

Ror: Yeah, we got a silver, actually.

Brady: The only American beer that got a medal in the Australian style (IPA).

Stoutmeister: Yeah, Bosque got the bronze in the Australian style at World Beer Cup in ’16, they got it for their IPA in that competition and that’s why they shifted into that category for GABF as well.

Ror: And, now we are getting ready for World Beer Cup, and you get four styles (to enter), but as the partners go we all like different types of beer and so we are all kind of vying for what we’d like to see go. All good ones, but inevitably you don’t send that one and then you wish you would have. There’s always that second guessing.

Stoutmeister: You always see that beer that wins and say to yourself “we could have beat that one!”

Solo: Well, any parting words?

David: We are making beer in 2018; you got that? That’s all I’ve got.

Solo: Sweet.

Stoutmeister: Actually I would ask is there anything new that you have conceived beer wise?

Solo: Any interesting things that you’re going to be doing this year, like the stoplight Berliner Weisse trio, or something like that?

Ror: Yeah, stoplight was great and that was actually the brainchild of Matt Angel, who has worked for us for quite a long time. He was pushing to do that for years.

Solo: So it finally happened.

Ror: He was having a great time pouring it and all of that.

Solo: I was having a good time because he was having so much fun with it.

Ror: With beer styles, we might have some fun with our Celtic heritage and have some things that are leaning a little bit more towards that, but maybe bigger (higher ABV) styles.

Solo: Splendid.

David: And, I think hopefully our overall portfolio, whether it’s Pedro or MorBuck or whatever else, will improve somewhat significantly. Not that these are bad or anything, but there is always room for improvement, so it is nice that the brewery is kind of evolving because now we are not only (using) different techniques, but we are experimenting with different techniques for certain beers. So our brewing style changes from beer to beer to beer to beer to beer to beer. And, that’s super exciting, and it’s all on the coattails of making better beer, not only research and study. If it adds half and hour, an hour, two hours to your day, it is still time well spent.

Solo: It is evident in the success of your Clark as you were telling us last year. You put in all of that time, all of that research, and you created a beer that was top three in the IPA Challenge. A totally different style from what we are typically used to and that’s saying something, to pull that off in the first year.

David: So I think on the nerd side of things, that is what’s exciting about that for 2018. I read this and you read that, and you put it together and lo and behold that works, that one’s great. We should implement this technique in this beer.

More equipment is on deck for 2018.

Ror: We are also getting little bits and pieces to add to the brewery. When we first opened we had to wait to do some business and save a little bit. We started with a basic brewery and I think we’ve made exceptional beer for having this basic brewery. There are things that you don’t necessarily need, but if you would like to keep evolving then you just keep your eye out and get the pieces when you can.

Solo: So a few minor, well, not minor in terms of your quality of life, but minor in terms of overall cost pieces that you added to your brewery setup to make your lives a little easier.

David: Yeah, make our lives a little easier, or better beer, or hopefully with the right piece of equipment, sometimes it does both.

Ror: Whether it’s a technique or a style or a piece of equipment or some new technology.

David: Like Ror said, you operate in the basic brewery for a while, and it’s totally OK, and then you do get that one piece of equipment for Brady and then it is so much easier. I think we can all agree that we want it tomorrow, but we realize that there’s a great deal of patience that goes into it, so on the business aspect of it there is balancing those two.

Ror: And, for us, return on investment isn’t always in terms of dollars. You buy something and people say (about the beer), “It’s so clean, so crisp; how did you do it?” and if it was that thing we bought, that’s money well spent. In conclusion, if you really want to see what it’s like to run a brewery, check out our videos on YouTube. It’s rough.

* * * * *

My sentiments exactly. True characters to a man, it shows in everything they do, with the lust of the Celts and the dedication that comes of years of experience. Can’t wait to see what they might be up to in their second year, whether a new beer up their sleeves in the vein of the Clark line of IPAs, or what glorious machinations they might put up in video form for a good laugh or three.

Sláinte!

— Franz Solo