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The Ginger Man is an old-school bar with a modern craft beer list.

Greetings, beer fans! Normally, this blog is dedicated to all of the great beers produced in New Mexico. But, once in a while, Stoutmeister allows us to babble on about some of our trips to other lands, near and far. I had the pleasure to visit New York City (NYC) a few months ago and thought I would jot down what notes I could remember. (Um, something came up and I forgot to do this for a few months. Sorry.)

One thing that really stands out to me in my travels to NYC is that there aren’t that many breweries there. At least, not in Manhattan, which is where we visited. I know there are others off the island and within a subway stop, but the central hub of the city only has a few. As someone who’s used to every small town in the West having one, and at least three within a stone’s throw anywhere in Albuquerque, this feels strange. I guess it can be chalked up to economics; it’s just too darned expensive. Because there’s so much to see in Manhattan by foot and so little time (this was actually a work/education trip), we again didn’t venture out to the other boroughs.

The good news is that there are still many good places within 10 blocks or so of Times Square to find quality beers. The craft beer revolution certainly hasn’t skipped the Big Apple. Generally, you don’t have to go very far to find a bar of some sort. Thirty years ago, I’m sure all of them would’ve been slinging more whisky, Guinness, and Bud Light than anything else, and while it’s still somewhat true, many of them have excellent beers. A healthy handful dedicate themselves to craft beers. At most places, you will find a good representation of local and regional beers, too.

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Escape the heat by heading up the mountain for some beer and fun this Saturday!

Greetings, beer lovers! Los Alamos is once again hosting one of its annual beer-related events this Saturday, SummerFest. As usual, the event will take place at Pajarito Mountain, the local ski area. The temperatures are finally starting to climb, so this is a good opportunity to climb a few thousand feet to where the air is crisp and cool. (Note: Hopefully it will be nice, but weather on the mountain can be quite unpredictable, so be ready for anything.)

The beautiful mountain environment makes for a great place to visit, and you can burn some calories hiking or biking in the morning to make room for the afternoon food and brews. As a bonus, the beer lines will no doubt be shorter than those at the more crowded Albuquerque events. Winning all around!

The Stephanie Hatfield Band will be playing their brand of eclectic indie folk rock starting at 2 p.m. If you’re not familiar, check them out at their web site. Bill Palmer’s TV Killers will be joining them.

The ski lifts will be operating from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., if you’d like to take the easy and fun route up the mountain. Other events include a bike race and a disc golf tournament (register online). The cafe will be open as well, serving up their excellent eats.

I know you’re here for the beer, so here is the current list of breweries that will be in attendance and the available beers from those that responded to Stoutmeister’s request for their lists. We also noted the breweries that are new to the event.

  • Bathtub Row: Grapefruit IPA, Little Bird Blonde, Irish Red, and Acid Canyon Sour, as well as a few wine options
  • Bosque: 1888 Blonde Ale, Elephants on Parade, IPA, Center Fielder Extra Pale Ale
  • Bow and Arrow (NEW): TBA
  • Boxing Bear: Uppercut IPA, New Mexikolsch, Black and Blue Tart, Cider
  • Red Door: English IPA, Blackberry Hefeweizen, Unhinged Cider, Vanilla Cream Ale
  • Red River (NEW): Lazy Bear Blonde, Greenie Peak Wheat, Midnight Meadows Oatmeal Stout, Bad Medicine Honey Double IPA
  • Second Street: TBA
  • Sierra Blanca: TBA
  • The 377: TBA
  • Tractor: TBA
  • Tumbleroot (NEW): TBA
  • Turtle Mountain: Pech Chilz Pico 12, Bocky Mountain High, Sup’s Sesh’d Session IPA, Tim’s Mom, Trivial Monstrosity, Rainbow in the Dunkel (Tim’s Mom will be tapped first, then once it runs out, Trivial will be poured on the same tap)

That’s a lot of quality beer! As we get more info about the beers, we will update this list right up until the start of the beer festival at 1 p.m.

Admission is $20, which includes unlimited sampling, a pint glass, and pint of your favorite brew. If you do plan on unlimited sampling and don’t want to drive, be sure to take the free shuttles that run from the high school in town.

For more information, visit the Facebook event page or Pajarito Mountain’s blog post.

Cheers!

— Reid

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Give ski season a proper farewell with craft beer on a mountain!

This Saturday, the Los Alamos Ski Club is hosting its 70th (!) annual Skiesta festival at Pajarito Mountain, just outside of Los Alamos. Given the extremely dry winter that’s wrapping up, the notion of a festival celebrating skiing may elicit a sigh or a yawn, but rest assured the show will go on! There will be skiing and snowboarding, of course, as well as:

  • Food from the cafeteria.
  • The band Escape on a Horse (alt-country/Americana), playing from 2 to 5 p.m.
  • A 1940s-themed costume contest.
  • And, you guessed it, local craft beer (served roughly from noon to 5 p.m.).

Breweries that will be attending and plying their wares include Bathtub Row, Blue Corn, Rowley Farmhouse Ales, Santa Fe, and Second Street. We were told that Taos Mesa had to bail out at the last minute, which was too late to change the event poster above. At my request, Stoutmeister asked the breweries for their beer lists. The theme clearly seems to be more malt-forward than hop-forward to fit the colder conditions, plus a few Irish-style beers for St. Patrick’s Day. If any other breweries send their lists, we will update this post.

  • Bathtub Row: California Common, AK Pale Ale, Mexican Lager, Irish Red
  • Blue Corn: Peaches ’n Cream, Glasgow Garnet Scotch Ale, Atomic Blonde, Road Runner IPA
  • Rowley Farmhouse Ales: TBA
  • Santa Fe: TBA
  • Second Street: Imperial Stout, U2 Irish Stout, Jordy’s Irish Red, Kohatu IPA, Kolsch, and one more TBA

As usual, complimentary bus service will be running from Sullivan Field next to Los Alamos High School every 30 minutes between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., so take advantage of that.

Cheers!

— Reid

The third annual Stout Invitational in Los Alamos was a big hit, for man and beast alike. (Photo by Jason Rutledge)

The third annual Stout Invitational went down this past Saturday at Bathtub Row Brewing in Los Alamos. Something seemed to come up the first two times, so this was the first that I could attend.  Stouts aren’t my first choice, but a beer challenge less than a mile from my house? I have to go.

I went to the 4 p.m. slot (the event is divided into three 90-minute sessions). Things were very  busy when I got there at 3:45. Despite the chaotic scene, the servers did a great job of giving everyone a tray with the 16 samples. As always with these sorts of events, I started out strong, but things got fuzzy and it became difficult to sort out the good from the great. Most of the stouts in attendance were worthy efforts. A few, such as the barrel-aged monster in spot No. 1 (which we later found was a massive 13-percent ABV!) and the sweet one at No. 5 stood out to me. The four of us at the table split 50/50, two preferring No. 1 and two (including me) selecting No. 5. Several others could have won in my book, but in the end you have to commit to one.

Jason Rutledge of Los Alamos, a member of the board of directors of Bathtub Row, emceed the event, kicking things off and later announcing the winners. For those who haven’t heard, here are the results:

  • 1st place: Three Rivers (beer #7)
  • 2nd place: Rio Bravo (beer #1)
  • 3rd place: Red Door (beer #5)

Kudos to Three Rivers for taking the prize! Their stout was a coconut one, and to be honest, it was not the favorite at our table, but enough people were in the mood for a tropical stout to give it the win. You now have extra motivation to visit them in Farmington if you haven’t yet.

Jason was kind enough to send us a bunch of photos that he took at the event. I’ve included them below mine. He’s a much better photographer, as you can see. He’s also a famous beer photographer. If you’d like to follow him on Instagram, he’s @jrutled.

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The winners and the mapping from brewery to beer number.

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Jason Rutledge announces the winners. Brewers Guild director John Gozigian (facing Jason) looks on.

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Jason kicks things off, with general manager Doug Osborn applauding on the side.

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Let the judging commence!

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A busy day at Bathtub Row.

 

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Yeah, that’s a good way to end the day.

The event was a lot of fun and gave a bunch of people an opportunity to check out Los Alamos. A big round of thanks to all of the people who helped: Jason, Doug Osborn, and the crew at Bathtub Row; John Gozigian and the New Mexico Brewers Guild; the s’mores servers out at the fire pit; and all of the breweries that participated. Here’s to next year’s Invitational!

Cheers!

— Reid

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Head brewer Brandon Venaglia, assistant general manager Ashley D’Anna, and general manager Doug Osborn are now running the show at Bathtub Row.

It’s time for one of the more distant breweries to report in for the Look Back/Look Ahead Series.  Bathtub Row Brewing entered its third year of business and had some substantial changes in personnel, but things are still going well in Los Alamos.

Before we get into the details, we want to let everyone know that the third annual NM Brewers Guild Stout Invitational will be held at Bathtub Row this Saturday. As in previous years, the event will bring together breweries from all over the state to showcase their finest stouts. Granted, the weather isn’t frigid and snowy (though it is colder in Los Alamos than in Albuquerque), but it is still a fine time of year to take in some darker brews. At the Invitational, you’ll be able to indulge in 16 samples of stouts, along with a pint of your favorite. Voting will occur, but unlike the IPA Challenge, this event is more collegial and low-key. It’s more of an excuse for everyone to take a road trip and have fun. There will be three two-hour sessions, at noon, 2, and 4 p.m. The breweries that will be in attendance:

  • Ale Republic
  • Bathtub Row
  • Blue Corn
  • Bosque
  • Canteen
  • Duel
  • Kaktus
  • Ponderosa
  • Quarter Celtic
  • Red Door
  • Rio Bravo
  • Santa Fe
  • Sidetrack
  • Spotted Dog
  • Three Rivers
  • Tractor

As of Tuesday, some tickets were still available. They can be purchased in person at Bathtub Row or online.

Now back to our regularly-scheduled programming. I sat down with general manager Doug Osborn and head brewer Brandon Venaglia to discuss the year gone by and the year ahead.

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The new fire pit adds heat and ambiance to the outdoor seating area, welcome additions now and at any time of the year.

DSBC: Let’s look back at 2017. I know you had staff changes. I’m looking at two of them right here. (Yet it) feels like you’ve been here forever, Doug.

Doug: I officially took over January 1, but I didn’t really take over until (previous GM Jason) Fitzpatrick was finished with the transition, which was I think almost four months after the fact. I’ve only been here three out of four quarters. It’s going well, it’s good. Co-ops have their own challenges. I was more focused on bartending and service, and now I’ve become more focused with accountants and attorneys.

DSBC: Attorneys?!

Doug: We’re actually researching copyrights right now, for naming our beers and things of that nature. I’d rather not even go into that because it’s kind of convoluted. We have certain beers that the name is being used somewhere else. We’re trying to figure out where we stand with that. It’s interesting, it’s a different mentality than just putting cold beers in people’s hands, which before was my focus, getting everybody the best beer they could as quick as they could. We borrowed a bunch of money from the community to start this place up, and this January was the first installment of paying them back. Every quarter all the folks who ponied up cash to get this place open will be paid back over the next four years.

DSBC: Is that working out okay?

Doug: Like any debt position, it’s a pain and you don’t want to do it, but we’re in a position where it’s not a problem.

DSBC: That means good planning on your part, and everyone that came before you.

Doug: The people before me. This is more of a Lego structure than people realize. We have a lot of little hands in there. There’s a lot of people involved (and) that can be a really good thing, or a really bad thing, where you try to not overlap with what people are doing. We have more committees than your average bar.

DSBC: You just want to be the king sometimes.

Doug: Sometimes it’s nice to just make decisions and do what you want to do, but I also believe that if you get enough smart people in the room, usually the right decision is made, even if it takes more time to get made.

DSBC: So you’re getting comfortable in the role now.

Doug: We’re getting there. We’ve made rookie mistakes, but nothing that most people would even notice.

DSBC: Didn’t affect the beer!

Doug: Didn’t affect the beer, didn’t affect the serving of the beer. Any time you start talking about liquor licenses, events, the taproom, insurance, workman’s comp, slips and falls, it’s a whole different learning curve. When I came up as a bartender and a taproom manager, cold beer in hand is the end-all. That’s not the case for a general manager. I have a lot of people helping me.

DSBC: Including this one right here. (Gestures to Brandon.) 2017 was interesting for you. Most of it you weren’t here (for), but you’re getting into the flow of things.

Brandon: I’m getting into the flow of things. It take some time to figure out where all of the pins go. We’re slowly organizing things around my personality. They tended to have strong personalities, the people that came before me, in one way or another. I’m bringing my own.

DSBC: That’s part of the job. Was there anything in 2017 that stood out?

Doug: We’re still in an upward growth curve. In 2017 we had just over double-digit growth, which is good for a business in its third year. A lot of hours went into the member loan program, as I mentioned. (The) fire pit is finally finished. That was the holy grail of fire pits; it seemed like it took forever. A lot of little things that you don’t think of, too. Up until a few months ago, all we had were the standard pint glasses. Now we have pilsener glasses, we have glasses with a wider mouth so you can get a better smell compared to the ones we had before that had more of a closed mouth.

DSBC: That’s a subtle thing, but it matters.

Doug: It’s subtle, but it counts, especially when you’re sampling. Ashley is our new assistant general manager. As my dad likes to say, I don’t have that many shopping days before Christmas and before I’m old enough to retire, (so) I want to make sure there’s a person who can do basically everything I can do when I walk out the door. I like to tell these guys, when I drop dead on this floor, there needs to be somebody who has a set of keys to this place. I don’t want them having to rummage around in my pockets. Ashley’s the new assistant manager, which is a new position. She’s taking on more duties than any taproom manager ever took on. Her job description is everything I do.

DSBC: It’s probably good to have a little redundancy there.

Doug: It’s very good. She and I are still trying to figure out how to not duplicate work. How to not answer the same email. We’ve streamlined a lot of process. I’ve been involved in a lot of startups where your first two years are just figuring out if you have a viable product. We’re past that, we finished that hurdle. We’re just out of diapers and learning how not to put a fork in the light socket. We’re inventing and re-inventing systems as we go that have never been in place as we go, simply because we’ve never had the volume to worry about.

Also, another thing that’s really cool is that it allows us to have a historical perspective about what we’ve done. “What did you do last February?” Well, we didn’t have a last February, but now we do, so we have something to judge off of. That’s been really interesting. Numbers don’t lie, and we can compile numbers. We can take a look at it and see that such-and-such beer sold as fast as it did.

Ashley’s dad was the main accountant for the county, and he’s retired. He’s pointing us in the right direction. He’s an Excel wizard. He’s looking at some of our data and telling us what’s coming into play. Because we’re a co-op, we draw on a lot of people. Because of my love of baseball, I love stats, and he’s introducing us to stats I never would have thought about. Like Hoppenheimer (IPA) is our biggest seller. That’s great, we can say we sold X amount over the year, but he’s telling us things like how fast it sold, which beers it sold against. We sold $5,000 worth of Hoppenheimer this month, great, but you can’t compare this month to August. Volumes in August are so much greater.

DSBC: The customer base here changes month to month.

Doug: We’ve had some interesting trends. We’ve had down days we can’t explain. Is it the snow? Is it economic trends? A little bit of both? Who knows? But, we have people helping us.

Brandon: We have a lot of engineers in the room.

DSBC: If science needs to be done, this is a good town to do it (in).

Doug: When you’re first starting to walk and then run, then you can make plans for the future. Do we need to consider canning, bottling, kegging, selling, getting a wine grower’s license to brew your own cider? We didn’t have that historical data before. It’s all good information. What we sell up here is completely different from what I sold at Marble in Santa Fe.

DSBC: That was about five years ago? Have things changed that much?

Doug: Very different. Different palate. IPAs are always strong. Barrel-aged stuff was very popular for a while, and I think lagers are coming back. We go through lagers faster than I’ve ever seen.

DSBC: Interesting. We also have an international community here. Maybe the Europeans prefer it?

Doug: Maybe. We always did well with the Pilsner at Marble, but not as well as we’ve done with Brandon’s Mexican Lager. Some of (the) other lagers have done really well, and I don’t know if that’s geographic location or it’s a market trend. Hard to say.

DSBC: It is a weird little community.

Doug: It is, it’s not as cut and dry as we like to think it is.

DSBC: Moving to 2018, are you expecting to make any changes in the brewing area?

Brandon: It’s going to be a little tough. We need to cruise for a while. We need to get the most out of what we have.

DSBC: It’s a good-sized system for this size place?

Brandon: Well, the amount of fermenters is. We’ve got it down to the point that our regular brew day is almost the same as a 7-barrel brew day. If we had a 7-barrel system, which we don’t; we have half that, but we’re still putting in seven barrels to brew.

Doug: We have a 3.5-barrel brewhouse and 7-barrel fermenters.

Brandon: We could go to a 7-barrel system, but it won’t happen this year. It’s going to be tough for a while. We’re doing well producing what we do. Hopefully in the future we’ll get to that, or even beyond that.

Doug: I think the focus for us going forward, though who knows because we have a board of directors, too, is to finalize some of the things we’re doing here. We’re going to focus on this taproom and this brewhouse before going out and conquering the world. This year we’re going to stop, take a breath, pay our bills, staff up, put our “A” team in place. Figure out where we are in the world.

DSBC: Nothing wrong with that.

Doug: People can experience some success relatively quickly in this industry. New taprooms, new systems, this, that. I think we’re getting a lot of use out of this place. We could always improve sales, but I think we need to find out who we are first (and) then refine that before we expand.

Service in this town has gotten better. Pajarito Brewpub is doing a very good job. Laura at Pig ‘n’ Fig is serving beer now, and she’s doing a very good job. Blue Window has moved and is doing a good job. The VFW is doing a lot of promotion and trying to get our customers, and they should. There’s still a lot of expansion to happen with all of our businesses. Across the way, UnQuarked is getting better and better.

DSBC: They even have beer now.

Doug: Yeah, the competition has upped their game. The product is better across the board. It’s good for all of us. We have a good relationship with most of the people that are our competitors.

DSBC: You’re not looking to get into food, right?

Doug: Not yet. We’ve got the pizza place across the street that just opened up. It’s great, they have things we don’t have. They have an arcade. Parents come for a beer and kids go play video games. Having pizza and salad and wings allows us to send our customers to go get food. We don’t have to clean a kitchen. Food’s hard. Margins aren’t great. It’s a good thing for everybody. Even the chocolatier across the way, and Sirphey is available at UnQuarked.

DSBC: Anything else coming for 2018?

Doug: I’m fiscally conservative, so I don’t like debt on my books. I want to pay off member loans as soon as possible. It’s a more than manageable amount, but if I can pay it off I will.

DSBC: And once it’s paid off, that’s it?

Doug: That’s it, no more debt service. At that point, we’ll probably pay dividends to our owners. But, before we consider that, I want to make sure my employees have health benefits. We’re a co-op, which means we need to be kinder and gentler across the board to our community and our employees. If our employees are worried about their kid’s dental appointment or whatever, then they’re not efficient employees. As a co-op, we don’t have to show huge margins and there’s not a small number at the top taking advantage of the profits, there’s going to be more profit to be shared. We’re up to around 18 employees now. There’s 10 to 15 families that cash checks to keep their lights on. If we can provide more of that type of good will in our community and amongst our employees, then that’s the next goal.

DSBC: You mentioned that you’re getting a cider license?

Doug: We’re going to fill out the paperwork. I have the paperwork on my desk. Boxing Bear has a great product. Their cider is what we use. I like the guys there. They’ve been nothing but fantastic. People like their cider. It’s a gluten-free option. We’re going to run the numbers and see, does it make more sense to sell Boxing Bear’s or make our own? I’d love to do it, (and) if we can, we will.

DSBC: Well, hopefully we’ll look forward to a cider.

Doug: It takes a long time, six to eight months. We have some time to figure out if it’s worth it.

DSBC: OK, that’s it then. Thanks for your time.

Cheers!

— Reid

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New head brewer Brandon Venaglia enjoys one of his creations at Bathtub Row.

Bathtub Row has yet another new head brewer, the third in its brief history. Stepping into the role is Brandon Venaglia, who was previously at Cazuela’s in Rio Rancho. (For some historical perspective, Stoutmeister did a DSBC interview with him in 2014 when he was with Back Alley Draft House.) We stopped by the Tub on a quiet weekday afternoon to get to know him. It was an interesting, if somewhat digressive conversation.

(Note that we will be doing a second post soon covering Bathtub Row for the Look Back/Look Ahead Series, so this post focuses mainly on Brandon personally.)

Brandon got into brewing as most people do, as a hobby. He wasn’t even 21, so brewing and distilling were a means to an end back then. We wondered whether such activity at that age is even legal; in a way it seems like of course it should be, but the law sometimes frowns on such endeavors. He grew up in Corrales and bought his supplies from Victor’s Grape Arbor homebrew supply shop. Brandon became friends with Victor and his daughter, and even came to acquire some of Victor’s brewing recipes. One in particular Brandon said was a “cocoa puff stout,” which is likely just as you would imagine it. He would only speculate that he might brew that and others as part of his new job.

Corrales was and still is a small town, despite being so close to Albuquerque. Businesses, and in particular breweries, have always had a difficult time operating there because, of all things, sewage is a problem. That problem was apparently recently solved, and Brandon hinted that he had heard that a new brewery would be opening there. (Editor’s note: More on that is on the way, I promise. — S) This led to a discussion of a few sad brewery closures — Stumbling Steer, which was not far away, and Chama River, which we all knew and loved. Well, most of us, because Brandon had never actually been to Chama River’s main location, preferring the downtown taproom. We mused that maybe the upscale food ambitions of both places had been their downfall.

Brandon’s first paid job was at the Back Alley Draft House in downtown Albuquerque. Things were fine there, and he said out that they did well at the State Fair competition. As often happens in this business, he moved on to a job at Cazuela’s in Rio Rancho. Brandon spent two-and-a-half years there before his current gig at Bathtub Row, which he officially started on December 1. Cazuela’s had been brewing their own beer around five years before Brandon arrived; the previous brewer, Mike Campbell moved on to open Drafty Kilt. I mentioned that we enjoyed Cazuela’s beer and Mexican food menu those times that we remembered to get up to Rio Rancho. In particular, my wife loves the Cojones Azules, a strong malt liquor made with blue corn, and I like the Papacabra, a nearly 10-percent ABV DIPA. (Maybe it says something about us that we liked two of the strongest entries on the menu … nah.) Brandon said he thought the Papacabra and Chupacabra (the regular IPA) were too similar.  

“(The previous brewer) was taking Chupacabra and just adding more grain and hops,” Brandon said. “I wanted Papacabra and Chupacabra to be two different beers. The malts [I used] were different and the hops were different. The Papacabra was just 100-percent one type of malt, Maris Otter.”

This example of creative drive is something that came through during the entire interview.

History is something that Brandon clearly has a keen appreciation for. As he pointed out, brewing and distilling are processes that humans have been doing for thousands of years. He said that he wants to try various styles from different historical periods, including an 1800s British-style ale, a traditional British IPA, and a 1700s era porter. Brandon mentioned that Ballantine had an IPA before Prohibition, and that Pabst now owns that brand. Not too long ago, they released a limited edition IPA that was supposed to be like the original, but really, it wasn’t. The hops they used didn’t even exist at the time of the original, Brandon explained. For various reasons, duplicating a historical recipe is difficult.  

“Malting has all changed,” Brandon said. “There are ways to be in the spirit. Brown malt today isn’t what brown malt was 200 years ago. It was actually diacetic and had enzymes in it. As a result, porter back then isn’t the same as porter today.”

Such historical perspective is often lost on brewers today.

“I think modern brewers see a history that just starts at essentially a few years ago,” Brandon said. “And it makes sense given the growth of the industry, but there’s thousands of years of history in fermenting beverages. I don’t want us to just do beer. (Bathtub Row is) getting our wine/mead/cider license so we can do pretty much anything we want. We’ll brew a cider. We have a customer base here that will at least try anything. They’re enthusiastic and curious.”

Brandon was lured to Los Alamos by a combination of a raise and the prospect of living in a great little community. The seed for this change was planted a few years ago when he came up to do a collaboration with Hector, Bathtub Row’s first brewer. Since Brandon has a family, Los Alamos’ excellent school system also strongly appealed to him, as well as the nearby outdoor activities. He said he also has a great appreciation for the co-op business model that Bathtub Row operates under, and the people that work there, such as Doug Osborn, the general manager. Brandon said he is planning to stick around for many years.

As one can imagine, the menu at Bathtub Row will stay interesting and varied, as it was under the previous brewers. Brandon said he appreciates all beers in general, but he loves lagers and plans to always have a light lager available.  

“I plan on a lot of lagers,” he said. “I like the challenge of light lagers; it’s left-brained brewing, analytical. It’s all about process. We have a great process here.”  

Brandon has made minor modifications to the always-popular Hoppenheimer IPA, with an implied, but mysterious, goal in mind. On tap at the time of the interview was Hoppen Mother, a mix of Hoppenheimer and the bourbon barrel-aged Crazy Mother.

“I dry hopped it with Mosaic, Chinook, and Citra or Cascade,” Brandon said. “We had a bunch of Mosaic that wasn’t being used, so let’s throw it in there. Post-barrel dry-hopped it for about four-to-five days and then kegged it off. Once that’s done, we’ll be going back to what was supposed to be a bourbon barrel brown, but it was so dark and so big that we called it an imperial stout.”

Speaking of stouts, coming up next will be Brandon’s own take on a stout for the third annual Stout Invitational being held at Bathtub Row on Saturday, February 17. It will likely be something modest, such as an oatmeal stout. Tickets for the event, which will be a treat for any stout lover, can be purchased at Bathtub Row or online.

If you haven’t been to Los Alamos yet, come visit and see how Brandon has been honing his craft.

Cheers!

— Reid

The annual autumnal festival returns to the mountains above Los Alamos. Skal!

The days are getting shorter, and there’s a bit of a nip in the air here in the higher elevations. Fall will be here soon, officially, and with it the prospect of snow. To many people, snow means skiing, but, only if there’s enough of it! To please Ullr, the Norse god of snow and winter, Pajarito Mountain Ski Area and the Los Alamos Ski Club host a festival each fall in the hope of bringing abundant snow. And, if you’re going to host a Nordic-themed festival, then you’re certainly going to include an abundance of beer.

This year’s ULLR Fest will be taking place Saturday at the Pajarito Mountain above Los Alamos. The weather has been very nice, so it should be a very pleasant afternoon (though being a mountain, you have to prepare for nearly anything, so dust off those hoodies). Being a themed event, there will be a costume contest, so bring your finest Viking garb.

Several New Mexico breweries will be in attendance to satisfy your thirst, and wine will also be available. For $15, you get a souvenir glass, unlimited tastings, and a pint of your favorite beer. Pints will also be available for purchase (cash only, please). Bring your ID! The beer portion of the event will begin at noon and run until 5 p.m.

Stoutmeister has been hard at work putting together beer lists for the attending breweries, and so far most have responded. Hopefully we hear back from the last three breweries before the festival begins.

  • Bathtub Row: Hoppenheimer IPA, Kritical Kolsch, Flat Cap Brown
  • Blue Corn: Apparition Pale Coffee Ale, Saison aged with Brett, Gold Medal Oatmeal Stout, Ginger Braggot
  • Bosque: Elephants on Parade, Oktoberfest, Pistol Pete’s 1888 Blonde Ale, Bosque IPA
  • UPDATED–> Boxing Bear: Uppercut IPA, Ambear, Chocolate Milk Stout, Pineapple Upside Down Beer, Cider
  • La Cumbre: TBA
  • Marble: Double White, IPA, Pilsner, Marblefest (making its debut!)
  • Red Door: Blackberry Hefeweizen, White AF IPA, Roamer Red, Oktoberfest
  • Santa Fe: Santa Fe Gold, 7K IPA, Happy Camper IPA, Nut Brown
  • Second Street: Fulcrum IPA, Atalaya Altbier, LVL Stout, Summer Rain Sour, Double X ESB, Kolsch
  • Taos Mesa: Mosaic IPA, Black Widow Porter, Kolsch 45, Great Scot Scottish
  • The 377: TBA

There are numerous other fun events planned for the day:

  • Disc Golf tournament begins at 10 a.m. at the Lodge; entry is $20. There are Pro/Advanced/Novice/Female Divisions. Cash payout for top three players in each division.
  • STRAVA self-timed downhill mountain bike race (download the app and time your run as many times as you want, prizes for the best time at the end of the day). This event is free.
  • Pajarito Poker Run mountain bike ride (pick a card as you board the lift each time, take any run you want, best two hands at the end of the day wins a prize). This event is also free.
  • NEW THIS YEAR: Downhill Mountain Bike Rentals and free lessons all weekend.
  • Lift Served Biking and Hiking 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

On top of that, there will be some great music provided by Bronach and Felix y Los Gatos.  The cafeteria will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. to soak up the beer.

As usual, a shuttle will run between Sullivan Field (adjacent to Los Alamos High School) and the ski area every 30 minutes, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Also, shuttle service will be available to the White Rock Visitor Center. Call 661-RIDE (7433) to arrange that service.

Cheers!

— Reid

Hello, Wicked Weed.

One nice thing about having children-in-law is that they sometimes end up in nice places, and you have to visit them, of course. Such was the case here. My daughter-in-law is currently studying at Duke University in North Carolina. I never had much of an occasion to visit NC in the past, though I didn’t doubt it was a nice state. We previously visited her in the Durham area, but we figured on our next trip we would go to Asheville, up in the mountains in the western part of the state. Apparently, it’s an East Coast beer mecca (well, you probably already know that), so a pilgrimage was in order.

We started our short trip in an ugly fashion — our 6 a.m. flight to Charlotte on Southwest was cancelled just prior to boarding. After some wrangling with the desk attendant, we managed to get on another flight to the Raleigh-Durham airport. (Charlotte is a shorter drive to Asheville, but you take what you can get.) We ended up getting into Raleigh much later than planned, but at least we were there. Sadly, our luggage was not; it had decided to stay in Albuquerque an extra night. We drove off to Asheville, anyway, hoping the clothes on our backs would hold up for a few extra days.

Given the later arrival and longer driving time, we got in to Asheville after 10 p.m. It was a Wednesday, so we were afraid nothing would be open. Most places seemed to close at 9 or 10. The mighty Google informed us that Foggy Mountain Brewpub was open late, and a call informed us that they even served food until 3 a.m. Perfect! We arrived to find a loud band playing and people Elaine-dancing in our faces as we headed back for a table. There was no table service, so we struggled to get our orders in at the bar. My wife had a cider and White Zombie, which she liked, and our daughter’s boyfriend and I had Jade IPAs. It was quite respectable, but after a day of ugly traveling, it could have been mopped up from the floor and I would have enjoyed it.

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Mellow Mushroom’s impressive beer selection

The next day, we headed downtown. Asheville has many, many breweries, and a decent number are in that area. Given we were returning to Charlotte on Friday, we couldn’t hit them all, sadly. First up was a healthy breakfast at Green Sage Cafe, a very hip place on the main drag. Then on to Mellow Mushroom, which has great pizza and beers, including the Sweet Water Grapefruit IPA my festivities starter. From there, we meandered to Mast General Store, an old-timey store that sells all sorts of touristy merchandise. Quaint.  

Finally, we arrived at Wicked Weed Brewpub. I knew I had heard of it before, and the boyfriend reminded me that it had been purchased by InBev. Ouch. Maybe we should boycott? Nah. We were directed downstairs, which is the location of a nice taproom with a variety of fairly exotic beers. There were many sours, various strength IPAs, and an assortment of other styles. It took three flights between the four of us to try most of them, and they were very good. My wife in particular loved the Gin ‘n’ Juice, which is a potent brew (10% ABV) aged in gin barrels. This is a quality place, and I hope InBev doesn’t change anything.

Ah, delicious (Wicked) Weed flights.

From there, we meandered over to Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria. It’s not a brewery, but it has a nice selection of local beers on tap. I opted for a session IPA, which was fine. We didn’t try the pizza, but they had garlic knots, which were good, but not as good as the ones you used to be able to get at Bosque.

My wife loves Mexican food, so wherever we go, we have to find some. It has to be authentic, so Taco Bell need not apply. Right in the middle of all of this downtown action we found Mamacita’s Taqueria. Spicy, delicious, excellent! And, they even have several quality beers on tap.

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Green Man’s modern design

Ready to try another beer joint, we headed down the hill to Green Man Brewery. This is a rather enormous, modern three-story affair, with a bar on the ground floor and another on the third floor. The original location is also open and just a bit further down the street, though we didn’t check it out. We tried a flight and found the beers to be good, though not quite as interesting as Wicked Weed’s. (It’s at this point writing this that I realize I need to take better notes.)

We wandered back up the hill and stuck our heads into Wicked Weed again. It was about 9 p.m. at this point, and the place was crowded. This is clearly where folks gather after work, unlike Green Man, which was nearly empty.

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One World Brewing, just before closing

We decided to try to find one more place before closing: One World Brewing. It seemed to stay open later than most, so we wandered about trying to orient ourselves on Google Maps and with a case of Wicked Weed Brain. Eventually we found it tucked down an alley and down some stairs. I believe the beers there were decent, though I was tired and not as into the task as I should have been.

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Feeling metal? Get to Burial.

The next day we checked out of the motel and recovered at the nearby mall. We got the word that our luggage finally arrived at our motel, so we dragged our odoriferous selves over to pick it up. We considered taking off for Charlotte, where we would be staying the night before flying out early, but my wife couldn’t resist one last shot at Mamacita’s. It was excellent again, and more importantly, since we were downtown, we decided to hit one last brewery — Burial Beer Co.  It’s not far from Green Man, but we had skipped it the previous day. It was a fortuitous turn of events, because it had the finest beers of all that we had tried. They had two IPAs, a DIPA, and even a triple IPA on tap. They had a sour, a coffee stout, and a michelada straight out of the tap! (The michelada was a pilsner, I believe, mixed with tomato juice, lime juice, and hot sauce.)  

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Burial’s wonderful beers

The IPAs were excellent, on par with the best that New Mexico has to offer. I even mentioned to the bartender that we were from New Mexico, and he said, “Oh, yeah, you guys have Marble and La Cumbre.” Quite a worldly bartender!

After that, we took off for Charlotte. When we arrived, we stopped at a Whole Foods just to compare with New Mexico’s versions of the store. It had a cute little corner bar with four beers on tap. Kind of sad compared to the one in Santa Fe, which has 30 or so. It was again getting late, so we picked one last brewery near our motel to check out, Blue Blaze Brewing. It got good reviews on Google, but nearly every place gets 4-to-5 stars, it seems. It was a nice facility and the bartenders were very friendly, but sadly, the beers were mediocre and bland, as if the equipment needed cleaning. I always hate to write that about a place, but at least I’m writing it from 2,000 miles away and not likely to hurt their business.

We easily could have spent a few more days in Asheville. We only visited the downtown breweries out of convenience, but even those were worth the trip. There are many more around the area. Asheville itself has a cool vibe to it, reminding me of a Colorado mountain town. If you’re considering going, you should. Definitely do not skip Burial Brewing! We’re already thinking about another visit in the spring.

Cheers!

— Reid

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Jim Dyson, the unsung hero of Bathtub Row, is the man who keeps the brewery running.

Bathtub Row Brewing (BRB) in Los Alamos is an unusual sort of brewery, being based on a co-operative business model. It’s also in a small, fairly isolated town. These things lead to a lot of community involvement and pride. I know that many people have done an awful lot of volunteer work on all facets of the business, from getting it off the ground to building its furniture. They’re all heroes, of course, but when asked, the management narrowed it down to one name: Jim Dyson.

“Jim is a hard working and dedicated employee who has been with us since the beginning,” management said. “He is a vital part of keeping Bathtub Row Brewing a success. Simply stated, the beer doesn’t flow unless Jim is here.”

After talking to Jim for nearly an hour, I understood completely.

We sat down just as the brewery was opening, so things were still calm and relatively quiet. I’d been somewhat involved in the early years of the business, but not much in recent years, so I’d never met Jim. He’s a friendly guy, retired from the National Laboratory for four years now, and having lived in Los Alamos for 50 years.

He was called in to help move some equipment into the new business before it first opened, which was in early 2015. Soon after, he was asked to help wire the igniters for the boiler tanks. Being a helpful fellow, he said sure. The management knew they were onto a good thing, because they then asked if he could hook up the controllers.

It may not have his name on it, but Jim was instrumental in getting all of this equipment up and running.

After that, he pulled together a team of people with tractors and Bobcats to level the patio area. There were more stories about his ongoing volunteer efforts, including hauling equipment to festivals, and past tales of taking kegs down to Santa Fe Brewing Company for cleaning. (BRB now has their own facilities for cleaning kegs, fortunately.)

Aside from courtesy beers, his only payment was a gratis lifetime membership; granted, that’s a $250 value, but Jim’s efforts have been worth much, much more than that.

At one point, Jim’s wife came in. He was spending so much time at the brewery that she got her server’s license and joined him in handling BRB events. She is now a bartender there, so it’s a family affair.

When any sort of facility emergency comes up (a rare thing these days), Jim is usually the man that gets the call, any day of the week. He’s handled many himself, and if he can’t get it taken care of, he knows who to contact. Jim is now an actual employee, getting paid for a handful of hours a week as the maintenance manager, but his contributions still greatly outweigh his salary.

Jim always keeps an eye on all the BRB equipment.

Outside of his BRB activities, Jim owns horses and spends a lot of time with them. He’s able to feed the horses the spent grain from the brewing process, so even the horses benefit from Jim’s relationship with the brewery. He owns 10 acres near Chama and hopes to build a dream house there someday.

As for beers, Jim said he enjoys lighter beers, like the kolsch, blonde, and Wit Rock. BRB had one called Krispy Kreme, which he said was akin to a combination of the blonde and Wit, and that was one of his favorites. If he gets a chance to pick a recipe, he’d like to see a heavy cherry liqueur-style brew, ideally during the cold of winter. He’s particularly not a fan of dark beers that taste of coffee, which he calls a “cold coffee.”

We ended the interview with a tour of the facilities.  It felt like there wasn’t a single bit of equipment about which Jim didn’t have a story or a hand in. I walked away feeling like without Jim, it’s quite possible the place wouldn’t have survived. If you happen to see Jim at the brewery, be sure to thank him for all of his efforts!

Cheers!

— Reid

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Stout lovers, head to Los Alamos this weekend!

It’s a rare thing when I, your Los Alamos-based correspondent, get to write about a local festival! Some of you may have heard about the Brew Crew’s own annual Stout Challenge (which I have yet to attend, sadly), and as fine as that event was, this one may be even finer. The Bathtub Row Brewing Co-Op is hosting its Second Annual Stout Invitational this Saturday, with 15 New Mexico breweries bringing their finest stouts:

  • Bathtub Row Brewing Co-op
  • Blue Corn Brewery: Gold Medal Oatmeal Stout
  • Bosque Brewing
  • Boxing Bear Brewing: Chocolate Milk Stout
  • Chama River Brewing
  • Kaktus Brewing: Slow Loris Imperial Stout
  • Kellys Brew Pub
  • La Cumbre Brewing: Molinillo Stout on nitro
  • Red Door Brewing
  • Rowley Farmhouse Ales
  • Santa Fe Brewing
  • Sidetrack Brewing: Stoker Stout
  • Starr Brothers Brewing: Foggy Monocle (oatmeal stout)
  • Taos Mesa Brewing
  • Tractor Brewing Company: Cowgirl Coffee Stout

Note that Starr Brothers’ entry was the winner of the Brew Crew Stout Challenge. Let’s see if they can make it two for two. We will keep updating this list as more stouts are announced.

For $25, you get a commemorative glass, a sample of all 15 beers, and a full pint of your favorite. The day will be broken into three separate sessions, each lasting an hour and a half. They’ll start at noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. Tickets for a session can be purchased at the ‘Tub, or you can purchase them online at nmbeer.org. The 4 p.m. session is already sold out, so act fast.

As soon as we have the identities of the competing stouts, we will update this post.

Cheers!

— Reid