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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

Incoming GM Doug Osborn, outgoing GM Jason Fitzpatrick, and head brewer Nic Boyden.

Incoming GM Doug Osborn, outgoing GM Jason Fitzpatrick, and head brewer Nic Boyden.

For this edition of our ongoing Look Back/Look Ahead Series, we are focusing on one of the more distant breweries in New Mexico (for most of you, at least). Bathtub Row Brewing (BRB) in Los Alamos has now been in business for over a year and a half, and things are going quite well in terms of brewing and business. I sat down with general manager Jason Fitzpatrick, staff member Doug Osborn, and head brewer Nic Boyden to get their take on how last year went and how this year will fare.

Some of the major changes have involved personnel. Nic was hired in 2016, and he seems to have gotten comfortable in his role after an exciting time learning the ropes.

“I finally feel like I’m getting up to full speed, getting into the groove now,” Nic said. “It allows me to focus on recipe development.” (See our earlier interview with Nic for more details on his life and times.)

To take some of the load off of him, a couple of the bartenders have been helping out with keg washing, milling, and other time-consuming chores. The sharing of duties gives Nic time to focus on other things, like new recipes, and as Jason pointed out, “It’s also a great crossover between back of the house and front of the house. They get to see what actually goes on in the process on a day-to-day basis.”

In addition to a new brewer, the general manager position will see a change soon as well. Jason has been the GM since February 2015, but he has plans for a new venture in Santa Fe and will be leaving in early 2017. (You will certainly see details about his venture on this blog, just to give you an idea what sort of business it will be!) Jason was around in BRB’s early days, and his experience and vision helped turn it into the success that it is today. Replacing him will be Doug, who has been working as a bartender at BRB for about a year and a half. Like Jason, who came from Marble when they had a location on the Santa Fe Plaza, Doug has a background in the beer business. He worked at Marble with Jason and helped get Blue Corn and Chama River off the ground. Prior to that, he was in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, working on a ship and doing layout and design for a local newspaper.

“I haven’t been warm since I got back,” Doug said.

Bathtub Row also just recently bottled a beer for the first time. Introducing Becquerel on Brett. (Photo courtesy of BRB)

Bathtub Row also just recently bottled a beer for the first time. Introducing Becquerel on Brett. (Photo courtesy of BRB)

While the crazy days of starting up a fledgling business are behind them, there’s still a lot of work involved in running the brewery. For the most part, the GM handles all day-to-day operations, including purchasing, personnel, accounting, you name it, and the GM probably gets it done. Fortunately for Doug, Jason is planning to stick around long enough so that the handover will be smooth. Jason said he promised to stay in touch and will always have a soft spot for BRB.

Doug said he is looking forward to the challenges of his new position.

“My expertise has always been more front of the house than back of the house, especially when it comes to brewing,” Doug said. “I let those guys do what they do. But, I am looking forward to getting more involved in the brewing aspect.”

There are other changes afoot.

“We’re going to add a transportainer out back, which will help with storage,” Jason said. “We hope to use it as a mill room (too). We’re also going to purchase another 7-barrel fermenter to help with that summertime rush, when Hoppenheimer (IPA) is flowing, but demand is higher than we can meet.”

They may also buy a second fermenter later in the year to help ease the strain.

“Bigger is better in a lot of ways,” Nic said. “It provides bit more control over variables in the brew process. Doing larger and fewer batches can free up time to focus on cellaring and
barreling.”

In 2016, Jason estimated that BRB produced 700 to 750 barrels of beer; in 2017, he said that he expects that number to grow to as much as 1,100. As he succintly put it, “It’s a thirsty town.”

The brewery’s plans to buy and operate a food truck were foiled. The truck was purchased, but unfortunately the landlord didn’t allow them to sell food, so it will have to be sold. There are plenty of food options nearby that deliver, however. On a related note, the local food co-op was providing a simple food menu for awhile, but the logistics proved too difficult, so that has been scrapped.

The swanky new patio area at Bathtub Row.

The swanky new patio area at Bathtub Row. (Photo courtesy of BRB)

The outdoor seating area has been redone, and it’s much more comfortable now. It’s taken four months to finish, and because it doubles the occupancy, it’s a welcome addition. In the summer months, it will have sun sails overhead for shade. Complementing the patio on the side is some additional seating directly in front.

Beer dinners at the taproom have been a huge success. The most recent one sold out in three days. Generally, they are done monthly in coordination with Laura Hamilton, the chef at Pig and Fig, a local restaurant.

Other events will continue as well. Tuesday night is usually jazz night with local musicians, and Saturdays often feature a band. Last year’s Stout Invitational looks to become an annual event; this year’s will be even bigger, with 15 breweries featured versus last year’s 12. The brewery will be selling their wares at a monthly “beer and band” event at the nearby Pajarito Ski Area. BRB will also be taking part at WinterBrew, a beer festival at the Farmer’s Market in Santa Fe this Friday.

The beers will continue to be a mix of old favorites (Hoppenheimer, Wit Rock, and others) and new, creative recipes. Nic said he is keen on doing more barreling.

“We want to have more consistent barrel releases throughout the year, not just when we have a slow time,” he said. “In the summertime we are definitely strapped for brewing capacity.”

Recently, BRB featured a pair of excellent chile-infused beers. Expect 2017 to feature plenty of good brews.

2016 was BRB’s first full year of business, and it proved to be a huge success. 2017 should just be more of the same, and we mean that in the best sense.

Cheers!

— Reid

Get your finest viking gear on and head up the mountain for beer!

Get your finest viking gear on and head up the mountain for beer!

Greetings, gang. Bathtub Row Brewing in Los Alamos has had a new head brewer for a while now. We’ve been meaning to track him down and pick his brain, and the planets finally aligned Wednesday. We spoke with Nic Boyden about where he’s from, what he likes, and what his plans are.

We also discussed Nic’s special beer for this weekend’s upcoming event at the Pajarito Ski Area, Ullrfest! We know that there are other things going on this Saturday (NM Brew Fest and Corks and Brews in Albuquerque), but this is one of the premier events in the mountains near Los Alamos. The weather forecast looks promising, so it should be a great time. As always, activities other than beer drinking will include bike races, chairlifts and hiking, disc golf, and a viking-themed costume contest. Music will be provided by JJ and the Hooligans. If you think you will be participating in the beer portion of the agenda, you may want to take the free shuttle that runs between town and the ski hill every half hour.

The breweries that will be in attendance, with beer lists where provided. (Updates will be posted whenever we receive them until the morning of the festival.)

  • Bathtub Row: Ullr Beer (Sahti), Hoppenheimer IPA, Raconteur Table Beer, Fat Man Stout
  • Blue Heron
  • Boxing Bear: Oktobearfest, Ambear, Uppercut IPA, Cider
  • Chili Line
  • Enchanted Circle: Glory Hole IPA, Panty Tosser Peach Wheat, Wet n Wild, Octoberfest, Red River Red
  • La Cumbre
  • Santa Fe: Idaho IPA, Oktoberfest, Imperial Java Stout, Nut Brown (in cans)
  • Second Street: Southern Passion IPA, Rail Runner Ale, Red & Yellow Armadillo, Rod’s Best Bitter, 2920 Pale Ale, Kolsch
  • Taos Mesa
  • Tractor: Mustachio Milk Stout, Tractoberfest, Farmer’s Almanac IPA, plus cider cans
  • Unquarked Winery

What else does Bathtub Row’s new brewer have in store? Well, let’s find out.

Nic, the new head brewer at Bathtub Row, is looking forward to his first Ullrfest.

Nic Boyden, the new head brewer at Bathtub Row, is looking forward to his first Ullrfest.

DSBC: Hi, Nic. Thanks for meeting with us. How would you describe your beers?

Nic: Hoppenheimer (IPA) is the standard beer that we have here. That’s what everybody asks for the most. A bunch of hopheads here in Los Alamos. I try to brew a Hoppenheimer every other week, so we’re trying to keep it on tap. We’ll blow through a Hoppenheimer tank in about four days. If it’s released on a Wednesday it’s almost gone Thursday night and Friday night, and then Saturday, Sunday, we’ll have a little bit, and then it’s gone by the beginning of the next week. So, I’m trying to do that every other week, but still trying to keep a good variety. Otherwise I’d be doing that once a week. Trying to bring in some other IPA ideas, also. We’ve made some small tweaks to Hoppenheimer, but it’s pretty solid — bitter, hoppy Centennial-based beer. Sticking with that, made some small tweaks to it.  

DSBC: Do you have other ones that are staples? It seems like a lot of these are unusual ones.

Nic: Right. Every one of these was a first time. We’ll try to keep the Wit, which is pretty standard. Changing up the yeast strain right now. The next Wit we’ll be doing a little more frequently, but we’ll be sticking with that yeast strain for a while, really trying to dial that in. Everybody here has really been liking the Wit since before I was here. I’m not going to tweak that one too much. We want to keep a bitter, a light one, and a dark one, also.

DSBC: Do you think about it seasonally, too? It’s getting colder, so it’s time to start stocking more stouts and things.

Nic: I’m definitely going to try to do that. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, a hophead still wants an IPA. A malthead always wants a stout or brown or porter. Still trying to keep a variety, but at least let the subtleties of each beer be dictated by the season. In the summer, we’re trying to keep it fruity; in the fall, we’re going to have more beers with more spice to it, like your apple pie spices or your pumpkin beer. Everybody loves that. Definitely there will be darker stuff in the winter, too.

DSBC: Right now you have eight of your own beers.

Nic: Right now all of them are our own, so all of our taps are full.

DSBC: That’s a lot of room to play around even if you had four staples on hand; that’s four one-offs or crazy ones, whatever you want to try. Well, do you get to pick the brews?

Nic: I pretty much get to pick. I’m always trying to take suggestions and get some input on beers that we’ve done. I’m not going to just make every beer to (fit) my palate. We’re trying to sell some beers, try to keep some variety and some staples at the same (time), a balance of everything across the board. Pretty exciting that we have eight of our on tap right now. There was a point at the end of the summer where we were running out of beers so fast that we couldn’t keep all eight taps full even with guest beers. We were blowing through guest beers. After we blow through a Hoppenheimer, we’d put on a Boxing Bear (Uppercut) IPA. We’ve also done (Bosque’s) Riverwalker. As soon as we run through ours and theirs, then people will gravitate towards the next hoppiest thing, and then the pale’s gone. And then the hoppy pilsner’s gone (and) until Sunday afternoon we don’t have any beer whatsoever.

DSBC: Do you have kegs in reserve from other breweries that you can pull out?

Nic: Yes, we do, and we try to not (create) too much of stockpile due to space. What we’re usually going to order from another brewery are IPAs. IPAs are best when fresh, right, so we try to keep our stock as small as possible due to space and freshness. People got really thirsty over the summer.

DSBC: Plus the Lab is the factory in this town, and there lots of students that come in over the summer. Now that summer is out that’s probably why it’s calming down, and you know how much students drink.

Nic: I’m excited to have all eight of ours on tap. We’re just catching our breath after summer.

DSBC: I guess you do have to think about all of this when planning your own brewing schedule. You don’t want to stockpile too much of your own, either.

Nic: I’m still trying to figure it all out. I’m still new to town. I feel like wherever you go there’s a specific beer season. The only variables are how much does it drop off and sometimes it’s almost negligible, and in other towns it’s almost mud season like you’d have in a mountain town where tourists disappear for a while.

DSBC: Or ski season kicks in and suddenly they’re back. That brings up the next question. You mentioned you’re not from here, so where are you from?

Nic: I’m actually from Albuquerque. I’ve lived in Colorado for 10 years and been brewing up there for the last six or seven years.

DSBC: Where did you work there?

Nic: I got my start at Avery in Boulder. It’s huge. And then I moved down to Salida in the mountains and worked at Elevation four years after that.

DSBC: So, you’ve been working your way up the brewery ranks?

Nic: Yeah, I moved to Colorado to do environmental consulting as a field tech. Then found that I didn’t get paid anything, so I got into cell phone tower construction. I grew up and worked nine years at the Tram in Albuquerque climbing towers and stuff, so it was easy to transition that to cell tower construction. Really enjoyed the travel, but being a home brewer, I said that I didn’t care how much I made, I’m getting into the industry.

DSBC: So you were a home brewer before. You’ve liked beer for a long time, like a lot of us.

Nic: Yeah, I just took the leap. I took the first job I was offered. I applied to a lot of places on the front range of Colorado, and the first job I got offered luckily was at Avery. I just drove a forklift to get my start. I very quickly moved into packaging. I was the packaging lead and then I did some cellaring and then I moved up the brew deck. I worked my way up, getting on-the-job training at Avery. What was awesome was that they also paid me to do online schooling for brewing. When I felt like I was topping out with where I could go there, I wanted to move on and get more creative control, so I went to Elevation. A smaller place. I developed a few things and changed some things there, then I felt like I wanted to move to a place where every single week was a new beer and a new opportunity. More creativity.

DSBC: You couldn’t find that at Avery, huh.

Nic: I couldn’t find that at Elevation, either. That’s why I think this is a great fit for me. I have to keep the customer base happy with the IPA, the Blonde, the Wit … but beyond that, it’s complete creative control. It’s a lot more fun.

The current selection of beers at BRB.

The current selection of beers at BRB.

DSBC: What I’ve found is that there is a lot of sophisticated beer drinkers in this town. Plus, a lot of home brewers, they know their beers, and they love creative, crazy things, if you can pull it off. How did you find out about Bathtub Row?

Nic: I met Jason Fitzpatrick (the general manager) and Jason Kirkman (the assistant brewer) last fall at ColorFest at Pagosa Springs. I had a good, professional relationship with them, and once I heard that they were offering up a head brewer position, I decided that this would be a pretty good trip for me. I knew those guys already, so I figured they know what they’re doing, I’ll take the leap.

DSBC: What do you think of this town? It is different from other towns, it’s a little isolated … in World War II that was a plus.

Nic: It totally makes sense. It’s a cool little town, definitely. Cool, unique town … like you said, driven by the Lab. Moving from Colorado, I didn’t want to end up back in the desert. I’m a mountain person at heart. This was one of the few places that I could see myself moving back to New Mexico for. Being at 7,500 feet, getting the moisture, the cool air. Having trails right outside my door, I can bike, I can run, I can take my dog out. That’s the closest I can get to Colorado. I thought it would be a good fit. So far, it’s been nice living here.

DSBC: Albuquerque is of course a huge beer scene, just getting bigger all the time. But, you’d rather have a small town atmosphere, I guess.

Nic: Yeah, I’m from Albuquerque and moved to Denver. I was in downtown Denver, and ever since I’ve been stepping away. I went to Boulder which is smaller, and I went to Salida, which is smaller. And, I went to Los Alamos, which is probably about the same size as Salida.

DSBC: Unlike our previous head brewer, you didn’t get a whole lot of say about how things are set up or the equipment. Are you happy with what’s going on in back?

Nic: For what we can fit into this building, we’ve got a pretty decent setup. And, just speaking with the Board and Jason the GM, I’ve definitely heard what their long-term goals are, and their brew system itself was purchased from Bosque. They outgrew it in a year. So did we, actually. That would be the only thing that I’d like to really step up in the future. That’ll be down the road. We can catch our breath before next summer’s big season starts up again. Maybe we can get something in the works by then. But, right now we did just buy a keg washer that should have arrived yesterday. We’re going to get that installed so we can take care of our own kegs.  

DSBC: What did you do before with kegs?

Nic: We mostly took our kegs down to Santa Fe Brewing and paid them per keg to clean them. So, we’d drive them down there, drop them off, and then a week later pick them up.

DSBC: It’s like having to go to the laundromat!

Nic: Yeah, it’s just that the laundromat’s pretty far away. And, also they’ve got their own struggles trying to keep up with their own production, so we were on the back burner. They were doing us a favor. So, sometimes we wouldn’t have kegs if they had issues of their own that they needed to address. They definitely helped us out, but we decided to just take care of it ourselves. It’s not like the brewery is going anywhere, we can invest in a keg cleaner. That’s the next thing that’s been purchased and on the road somewhere. And, I think we will be getting at least one more fermenter pretty soon. It’s the number one limiting factor for our production right now. We’ll be maxed out on space back there after that.

DSBC: I suppose you could brew off-site and bring the kegs down here?

Nic: We could, but we want to stay true to Bathtub Row, make sure that the name makes sense. Holds true to the history of this place and what we’re about. Ideally we wouldn’t leave Bathtub Row as far as the facility goes, but maybe that’s way down the road. We have talked to the landlord just a little bit about expanding this building in the future. We haven’t been shot down yet.

DSBC: You mentioned Santa Fe Brewing. It seems like there’s a pretty tight-knit, friendly brewing community here. There’s also more and more competition, not so much here but in Albuquerque. Do you still feel that camaraderie?

Nic: I still definitely do feel the camaraderie. I feel like we’re making as much beer as we possibly can and we’re at our max capacity here. Nobody’s eating into our business, so it’s not even an issue for us. As far as breweries being competitive, I don’t really feel that too much because I think that coming from Colorado and joining the New Mexico beer industry, even though Colorado’s been around longer, I’m seeing the same thing … there’s just so much camaraderie. A very altruistic atmosphere where everybody’s trying to help everybody out. Ultimately our competition is not each other. There’s a huge market share that’s not craft beer.

DSBC: Those Budweiser guys?

Nic: Yup. We’re all friendly. It’s no issue whatsoever, especially here.

DSBC: Do you ever go to some of the other breweries? For “research” purposes?

Nic: Oh, definitely. I need to do a little market research. I’ll try to get off the hill as much as I can, but that is pretty rare right now. Since I’ve started, we’re kind of short-staffed, and summertime being busy, I’ve been here at the brewery almost seven days a week. Not really working hard on weekends, but there’s always something that needs to be kept up with or addressed. We can’t brew any faster. The only thing that slows down our schedule is if the yeast could work faster, I’d be brewing even more beer.

DSBC: Not much you can do about that, there’s no super yeast yet.

Nic: Nope, can’t rush those guys. I haven’t made it to as many places as I like. The industry is booming right now.

DSBC: A lot of them are putting out some really good beers too. Like, if you went down to La Cumbre and tried an Elevated, would you think about how you could reverse engineer it?

Nic: I like to interpret what they’re going for and see how it is received by everybody around me. I obviously have my personal tastes, but I want to make a beer that the masses really want to enjoy. When I say the masses, I really just mean the co-op and the local community because that’s who I’m brewing for. But, once I get a finger on the pulse of what they want here, which is basically the Hoppenheimer …

DSBC: A double IPA would be fine, too!

Nic: That would be nice to keep on tap. We (would) blow through that so fast. We have done some. Did you get a chance to try the honey double IPA?

DSBC: I bought one for a friend but didn’t try it myself, so no. It sounded good.

Nic: That was Jason Kirkman’s little baby. He did a fantastic job with it. He came up with all of that before I was here. I brewed it but it was all his. We used some local honey. We used some orange blossom water and copious amounts of hops. We ended up winning a national honey competition. There’s a large honey company, nationwide, based out of Colorado. They did a beer competition. They had an IPA category and a light beer category. Stouts, porters, browns, Belgian categories. It was nothing like the GABF, but we submitted a bottle of the honey double IPA and won the IPA (category). I think that’s a pretty stout category to try to win. Proud of Jason and his recipe. That’ll be coming back.

DSBC: You probably didn’t even use their honey!

Nic: No, we used local honey.

DSBC: No need to mention that on the form.

Nic: Ha ha, no. So we also have that submitted to GABF. We bottled enough to send to that competition as well as GABF.

DSBC: Anything else you’ve entered in GABF?

Nic: We entered the Redhammer, which is also Jason’s imperial red recipe. I had him come up and do that brew on his own and show me how he liked to brew that. That has been the best-received beer that we’ve entered in competition. I figured why not enter it again. We also did the wit, which has done pretty well also. No medals, but it’s advanced to the finals in some different competitions.

DSBC: And, you’ll continue to participate in the IPA Challenge? That’s big in this state.

Nic: Yup. There’s a lot of good IPAs that were down there. We have to step our game up.

DSBC: So what is your favorite beer? Just some personal info.

Nic: My favorite beer … Actually, I’d say that my favorite beer is Coors Original.

DSBC: Ha ha. I’ll have to edit that out.

Nic: It’s a solid German lager.

DSBC: I didn’t see that one coming!

Nic: No one does. It’s mostly water. That’s how I hydrate. And, it’s consistent, and that’s something I can geek out on as a brewer. Every Coors I’ve ever had in my entire life tastes exactly like a Coors. They’ve got the science down, for sure. Made with that Rocky Mountain water.

DSBC: You can taste the difference, eh? You’re drunk right now, aren’t you?

Nic: Ha ha. My girlfriend still lives in Salida, and we try to climb a mountain every weekend. She’s done almost every single 14er in Colorado, and some 10 times. She’s done quite a bit. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m going to try to summit a peak once a week when it’s climbing season. My favorite thing is to sit on top, eat some peanuts, and drink Coors Original. Doesn’t get you too drunk so you can get back down the hill.

DSBC: Yeah, you don’t need a double IPA right then. It’s not a good idea.

Nic: You can edit that all out.

DSBC: No, no, it’s a fun part. Anything else you want to mention?

Nic: I think it’s just great to be able to experiment here and try different styles. I’m really glad the community has been very open to that idea. I always have to keep an IPA on tap. I get plenty of request for reds and ambers. I try to keep those in rotation, but I feel like there so many other styles and I think it’s awesome that the educated beer drinkers are open to that. There are some places where you couldn’t do a mild and have people enjoy it, (a) three-plus-percent English mild, or a Belgian table beer. I’m really glad that people are open to that idea. It also allows me to do a SMASH on tap. I’m trying to showcase some hops. I think it’s pretty awesome that we can dance across all styles, as long as we keep our staples on, I can play around with whatever I want. That being said, Coors Banquet might be my favorite beer, but I love to make Belgians, I love to make sours. We have a great saison with peaches, brett, and lacto in barrels right now. It’s developing. It’s starting to taste good. That’s what I like best, a variety. If I want something standard, I’ll drink a Coors Original. I get to try everything. I definitely feel lucky to do this.

DSBC: You’re kind of living the dream for a lot of people that would be reading this blog, for example. Congratulations to you for having it all come together … and get paid for it! I’ve heard that for Ullrfest you’re making a juniper beer?

Nic: I’ve researched, but it’s nothing that I’ve tried. It’s sahti, a traditional Finnish beer. European malts and noble hops. The distinctive character of it is traditionally is mashed and filtered through a hollowed-out log filled with juniper branches. What I did is completely cover the false bottom of our mash tun with some fresh Los Alamos juniper boughs, and then threw all of the grain on top and mashed on top of that. It pulled the juniper flavor out of the branches. I’ll be adding a juniper berry dry spice at the end of fermentation, also. It’s going to be a good beer, hopefully. If you like juniper! With Ullrfest being the kick-off to ski season, we were thinking we would do something Scandinavian and maybe that’ll help with the snowfall.

DSBC: Sourcing local ingredients, too! That’s cool. Well, that’s about it. Thanks for your time.

Cheers!

— Reid

If you're gonna call it Christmas in July, you might as well go all out.

If you’re gonna call it Christmas in July, you might as well go all out.

Greetings, gang. This is one of those recap kind of stories, so it’s about some things you already missed. Sorry!

I, your Los Alamos correspondent, actually got down to Albuquerque on a Thursday night. We were going down anyway, so we checked out a couple of interesting-sounding beer events. The first was Rock & Brews Christmas in July Party. If you don’t know much about Rock & Brews, it’s a nationwide chain of restaurants that feature rock music and brews, as you might have guessed. Sort of like if you take a Hard Rock Cafe and mix in good beer (and remove the pretentiousness, though I’m editorializing). Albuquerque has had one for awhile now, but we don’t often drive by its location on Montgomery, and we usually go with one of the many other good-beer options when in town.

Donovan Finley, the bar manager there, let the Crew know about their Christmas in July party. It was a good excuse to finally check the place out! We got there a bit early and talked to Donovan. He’s a very friendly guy, and he’s also knowledgeable about his beers. On this day, they brought out some of their aged beers. These were the sort of beers that you don’t drink a lot of; ABVs were in the double-digits in several cases. There were so many good ones on tap that he kindly brought us flights of their eight “best” beers. All were exotic and tasty.

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The current inventory of rotating drafts. They change frequently!

We also ate there, and the food gets a thumbs up as well. Our only minor complaint is that the food marked as “spicy” (such as the “fireball” burger) wasn’t all that spicy. We’re a little extreme in that regard, though; to a normal person, it’s probably just right. The green chile was good, though.

Overall, we really liked the place. They have some very comfortable outdoor seating. In fact, Donovan said that the outdoor area was recently renovated at great expense. There are foosball and shuffleboard tables. There are many TVs; they were showing music videos while we were there. And the beers! They normally have a large selection of drafts and bottles. Donovan seems motivated to have a varied selection on hand to keep the craft drinkers of ABQ coming through the doors. All in all, we will certainly make this one of our regular stops.

In addition to the Christmas party, Kaktus was having a grinch party, of sorts. They intentionally brewed a “bad” beer! It’s rare that a brewery creates and brags about a bad recipe. They did it to raise funds for a campaign to stop the new public transit system being planned for Central. I don’t know much about that, including if it really is a good or bad idea. (It’s a terrible idea. — S) The beer in question was a “pickle porter” called Albuquerque Rapid Transit Ale. Yes, a porter that actually tasted like pickles! Going in, I doubted it would be something on the level of mixing chocolate and peanut butter (bless you, Mr. Reese), but I thought it might be OK. And, believe it or not, it was. I ordered a pint and finished it. It really wasn’t bad. (My wife Cecilia had a light cucumber beer that she enjoyed.) This was another opportunity to visit a place we’d been meaning to get to. The Nob Hill location is quite nice, and the rooftop patio was comfortable and had wonderful views.

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That garnish is a pickle. Perfect for a pickle beer.

Cheers!

— Reid

Time to head up the mountain again for great beer and a lot of fun!

Time to head up the mountain again for great beer and a lot of fun!

So, you guys down in Albuquerque seem to be having a lot of fun with your “Beer Week” thing.  Lots of events all over town, lots of beer … I can appreciate that. But, some of us don’t get down to Albuquerque very often as we are stuck up in the mountains. Well, we don’t have multiple events every single day, but we do have some big ones every few months. And, this weekend, we have one of the biggest! It’s time for Summerfest at the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area in Los Alamos.

Participating breweries are Abbey, Marble, Bathtub Row (the hometown favorite), Bosque, Boxing Bear, Chili Line, La Cumbre, Santa Fe Brewing, Second Street, Taos Mesa, Tractor, Turtle Mountain, and Black Smuggler Winery. A very respectable lineup. We weren’t able to get beer selections for most, but we do want to call out Chili Line Brewing, which is Santa Fe’s newest brewery. Their head brewer is Xander Pertusini, a Los Alamos native. Their specialty is smoked beers, and they’ll be bringing a smoked IPA and a smoked stout. Intriguing …

Editor’s note: Good thing Reid has yours truly to track down some of the participating breweries’ beer lists. — S

  • Abbey: TBA
  • Bathtub Row: Duck Duck Gose, Kristy Kream, Not Your Daddy’s Stout, Hoppenheimer IPA
  • Bosque: Elephants on Parade, Riverwalker IPA, Azacca SMASH, Scotia Scotch Ale
  • Boxing Bear: Bearzen, Ambear, Paw Swipe Pale, Uppercut IPA, Cider
  • Chili Line: Smoked IPA, Smoked Stout
  • La Cumbre: VMO #2, A Slice of Hefen, BEER, Elevated IPA, Project Dank, Red Ryeot, Malpais Stout
  • Marble: IPA, Double White, Wildflower Wheat, Red Ale, Eldorado Pale Ale, Saison #1
  • Santa Fe: ECS Lemon Skynyrd, rest are TBA
  • Second Street: 2920 Pilsner, Trebuchet, High Wheeler Pale Ale, Rod’s Steam Bitter, IPA, Railyard Red
  • Taos Mesa: TBA
  • Tractor: TBA
  • Turtle Mountain: Bien Tu Helles Bock, Konventional Kolsch, Session Red, plus house beers TBA

If any additional information comes in we will update this list.

As always, this event isn’t just about beer. There’s food and a few bands, of course (and I know that one band, DK and the Affordables, is a lot of fun). But, there’s also bike racing, hiking (take a lift if you’re not keen on climbing up the mountain), and disc golf. There will be a free shuttle that runs between the high school parking lot and the ski area, which is likely a good idea for folks reading this blog. Weather reports are currently predicting rain, and the weather in the mountains can change on a dime in any case, so be ready for anything on that front.

If you’re in northern New Mexico or just need a break from Beer Week, do yourself a favor and head up to Summerfest!

Cheers!

— Reid

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As usual, things are busy with Bathtub Row Brewing in Los Alamos. The big one is Skiesta, which will be held this Saturday.  If you’re into skiing and beer (and I bet a healthy percentage of you reading this are), this is an event not to be missed.  It’s getting awfully warm out there, so who knows how much more skiing you’ll be able to do, and there will be lots of good beer and food.  Felix y los Gatos is also an excellent band.  Trust me, you won’t be able to stay sitting down when they start playing!

Other notable upcoming events:

  • Tuesday, March 15: Another beer dinner will be held.  This is obviously short notice, and it could very likely be sold out by the time you see this, but if you’re in the area, at least try to go.  And we’re sorry we told you too late.
  • Thursday, March 17th: From 6-9pm, the Tub will be hosting a St. Patrick’s Day celebration featuring Bronach-Celtic Blues and food offerings from the Los Alamos Cooperative Market.
  • Saturday, Math 19: It’s not just Skiesta this Saturday….  From 11-noon, you can participate in a yoga class at the brewery.  Cost is donation to the instructor, and you get 1/2 off your first post-stretch pint.  Bring your mat and limber up for Skiesta!  (Yoga classes are held the third Saturday of every month.)

Also, plans are underway to transform the adjacent outdoor area into a nice patio, with lighting, shade, and, of course, good beer.  It’ll be a welcome addition in the warmer weather.

Cheers!

Reid

The magic word!

The magic word!

The Brew Crew recently received word that there is Yet Another New Brewery out there. We take for granted that there will be a new one every week in Albuquerque (and are very happy about it), but this one is about a stone’s throw from being in the middle of nowhere. If you’re going to Ojo Caliente’s famous hot springs and spa, or you’re on your way to Southern Colorado, then you will certainly want to stop at the Taos Trail Inn in Ojo Caliente. It’s probably the last chance for a decent beer before you get to the Colorado border, and if you’ve been steaming away in the spa all day, then you will certainly be craving a beer. The Inn is about a half-hour drive north of Espanola, which is about a half-hour drive north of Santa Fe. For many of you, that means that it would be a great Saturday afternoon excursion.

Living not too far away, we took a Friday night trip up to Ojo Caliente instead. We stopped by Romero’s Fruit Stand, which is about a mile south of the Highway 84/285 split. It’s supposed to have some outstanding chile, so we loaded up. About 15 miles further north, we arrived at the Taos Trail Inn. It’s easy to speed on past such a place, and frankly I’ve probably done it a few times, but if you stop and check it out, you’ll realize how nice it is. It really has that Old West Lodge feel.

Inside, it’s nearly breathtaking. Lots of wood and just oozing with ambiance.

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The stage is filled with live music almost every night.

They have rooms, as you would expect, but they also have a steakhouse and brewery. Inside the front door you’ll find a dining room, with a second dining area containing a bar and stage just beyond. They have live music most nights. On this night, the owners themselves, David and Pamela Post, played jazz and pop songs.

It turns out we started the article with a slight falsehood. The steakhouse has been in existence for three years, and David has been brewing beer even longer than that. I haven’t been up this way in a long time, I realized. I usually have a keen eye for places that have a big “brewery” sign. Well, the secret is finally out.

As we sat down, David informed us that they have an IPA and a stout. Perfect! He did warn me that the IPA was very hoppy, but I tut-tutted him and asked for one anyway. It was good, but I’ve certainly had hoppier beers. As we were speaking at the bar, he also gave me a sample of his stout. He claims it has a secret ingredient, and it did indeed seem to have some subtle flavor that I couldn’t identify. In any case, it was quite good.

The brewing system is relatively small; he gets about 15 gallons per batch. David likes to stick to his staples — pale ale, stout, and IPA. Cecilia had a Stella Artois, which was … fine. His plan is to replace the mainstream options with craft beers; in particular, he mentioned La Cumbre, which is A-OK with me.

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The menu has the type of food you’d expect at a hotel with a Western theme.

I must confess, I’m mostly a vegetarian, so I don’t get too excited about steaks. They promise a veggie-friendly option, and I saw “Spaghetti Western” on the menu. Penne with jalapeno sauce … hmm! I ordered it, but unfortunately received a baked potato with steak on top instead. Ah well, we were in a hurry, so maybe next time. The potato was fine, and Cecilia enjoyed the steak. In general, the food seemed like it would be very good.

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Just to the right of the entrance is the “brew zone,” apparently

If you haven’t traveled to one of the more distant corners of New Mexico, the Taos Trail Inn is yet another reason to get out there.

Cheers!

— Reid

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Greetings, beer lovers! Things are afoot at Bathtub Row Brewing in Los Alamos. First and foremost, the ‘Tub is hosting a Stout Invitational event on February 20. Sure, it’s starting to feel a bit spring-ish out there, but it is still technically winter, and it’s a fine time to be enjoying some black beers.

Here’s your chance to try 12 stouts from breweries around New Mexico, talk to the brewers who made them, and get a souvenir pint glass to boot! It’s being organized in three separate sessions, at noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. The cost is $25. If the IPA Challenge isn’t your thing, well, maybe this is your thing. Stop by BRB to buy tickets, or visit nmbeer.org to buy tickets online.

Look for more details as we get closer to the event itself, though we do have the full list of participating breweries in addition to the hosts: Blue Corn, Bosque, Boxing Bear, Canteen, Chama River (which just won the Brew Crew’s Stout Challenge), La Cumbre, Red Door, Rio Bravo, Santa Fe, Second Street, Taos Mesa, Tractor, and Turtle Mountain.

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And, in other news, you can now purchase food right at BRB. You could always bring in your own food, or go next door to Rigoberto’s or several other nearby places, but now you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your bar stool. The Tub has teamed up with the local food co-op to offer a handful of delicious dishes, including soups and quesadillas. They’re eager for feedback and suggestions, so get in there and try it and let them know what you think. Hey, one co-op helping another, that’s always a good thing.

Cheers!

— Reid