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Sam, left, and George Boese in front of their new taproom

If you’ve followed my posts religiously (and I assume you all have), you may have noticed a pattern to my posts. Bathtub Row had a good year, the ski hill is having a festival, Bathtub Row hired a new brewer, etc. I think the ‘Tub and ski hill are wonderful places, but living in small-town Los Alamos means not having a whole lot to write about when it comes to breweries. Meanwhile, my Brew Crew brethren can’t keep up with the brewery openings in Albuquerque. (We are trying, but it is hard. — S) Well, that is changing! Opening just 100 yards or so from the ‘Tub is Boese Brothers’ fourth taproom. I sat down with the brothers, Sam and George, to get the scoop.

Many of you are already familiar with Boese Brothers’ other locations — the original on Gold Street in downtown ABQ, another in the far NE Heights on Tramway, and a taproom/taco shop called Desert Dogs near the plaza in Santa Fe that they opened in conjunction with New Mexico Hard Cider. The original brewery opened in just 2015, so they have been rather busy. The brothers said they felt that they needed to look outside of Albuquerque again for their next spot.

“We’ve been looking around for a while at a couple different places. Some other places in Albuquerque, but it seems pretty saturated to us. The place in the Northeast Heights is pretty far away from anything else. So that kind of worked for us. But, you know, Los Alamos seems like there’s a pretty strong drinking population here,” Sam said. I beamed with a strange sort of pride at hearing that. “(We were looking at) nice towns and this is a really nice town. We didn’t have to go very far.”

Yes, Los Alamos is a nice little town. There’s only one other brewery, Bathtub Row, which also opened in 2015. If you just want a place where you can get a good beer, there are several other nice bars/restaurants in town that fit that bill.

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Summer, and beer, return to the mountain.

Pajarito Ski Area outside of Los Alamos has a handful of big events throughout the year, and it’s time for another as Summerfest will be held this Saturday.

If you haven’t been up to visit yet, this would be a great time to do so. If summer finally kicks in, you can rest assured that temperatures will be much cooler on the mountain. (I always warn people to be prepared for anything when it comes to the weather, though.) Throw in the natural beauty of the mountain and forest, and it’s a stunning setting for a beer festival.

There will be plenty of things to do throughout the day. There will be a mountain bike race, a disc golf tournament, hiking and biking (made easier by running chairlifts), the band Iron Chiwawa playing classic rock, good food, and yes, plenty of beer. More than a dozen New Mexico breweries will be in attendance, including:

  • Bathtub Row: CojonHaze IPA, Cali Common, Little Bird Blonde, American Wheat
  • Blue Corn: Oatmeal Stout, Gatekeeper IPA, Road Runner IPA, Peach Gose, Lager than Life
  • Lost Hiker: Blonde, Mosaic SMASH, Belgian Rye Pale Ale, Amber
  • Red Door: Unhinged Cider, West Coast IPA, Vanilla Cream Ale, Hopical Storm (Pineapple Milkshake IPA)
  • Red River: Lazy Bear Blonde, Peach Campfire Cream Ale, Desperado Mexican Lager, Catskinner IPA
  • Second Alarm: Porter, Kolsch, IPA (one keg)
  • Second Street: TBA
  • Sierra Blanca: Alien IPA, Green Chile Cerveza, Bone Chiller Brown Ale, and either Desert Pilsner, Vanilla Milk Stout or Cherry Wheat
  • Steel Bender: Skull Bucket IPA, Raspberry Dynamite, Rosy Nosy, Lloyd’s 3 O’Clock Kolsch
  • Taos Mesa: TBA
  • Tractor: Berry Cider, Mustachio Milk Stout, Acreage IPA, plus cocktails Kentucky Mule, StraJarito Tonic, The Vodka Blues
  • Tumbleroot: TBR (Light American Lager), Old School Pale Ale, Hefeweizen, New School IPA, plus a cocktail or two
  • Turtle Mountain: Wooden Teeth, Darker than Darkness Schwarzbier, Maibock, Doppel Equis Steinundator, Table Manners Session Brut IPA, Yum Yum Breeze

We will update this list with specific beers from the breweries as we receive them. The beer portion of the event runs from 1 to 6 p.m. Iron Chiwawa will be playing from 2 to 5, and food will be served at the lodge cafeteria from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tickets are $20, which we believe entitles you to a souvenir glass and unlimited sampling. Be sure to bring a valid ID, or you won’t get in.

As always, if you’re going to be enjoying the beer, take the free shuttle that runs every half hour from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. from the high school parking lot in town. It’s a several-mile drive up the mountain, so save yourself some gas and possible grief.

For more information, visit: https://www.pajarito.ski/events/summerfest/

Cheers!

— Reid

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Second Alarm Brewhouse has made itself a popular draw in scenic Jemez Springs.

Jemez Springs is a lovely little town in the Jemez Mountains. Despite living in Los Alamos, which is a little less than an hour drive away, I hadn’t visited the place in several years. Sure, you can get to Albuquerque by going “the back way” (coming out on Route 550), but it takes a little longer than the traditional route down I-25. It’s also quite windy, with many tight turns in spots. It can be quite sketchy in the winter, as you might imagine. But, it’s very scenic and full of vistas and natural beauty. I was reminded of this when we finally got around to visiting one of New Mexico’s newer breweries, Second Alarm Brewhouse.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, we decided to combine hiking with our beer-seeking. Judging by the number of cars at the various trailheads and campgrounds, half of New Mexico had the same idea. We eventually stopped at Battleship Rock and hiked around a bit, but, ah, less than planned. The pull of lunch was strong. We headed into Jemez Springs and found Second Alarm with no trouble; it’s basically the first thing you see on the right/west side of the road. (Given the town’s size, nothing should give you much trouble, really.) Parking can be tricky on the main street, but there were several free spots in the lot in back.

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There’s a fair amount of seating on both sides of the bar.

The building also houses Monica’s Firehouse Grill. “Fire” is a common theme here, since the building is an old firehouse. It’s a symbiotic relationship, with Second Alarm handling the drinks. I had made arrangements to speak with Cody Lewis, one of the owners, but he wasn’t in at the moment. The beer selection was very good, with guest taps from Bosque, La Cumbre, Tractor, and others dominating. They have good taste, at least! Second Alarm had their own kolsch, hefeweizen, and porter on tap; sadly, the IPA was out. An IPA is a good test for a brewery, and it’s also my favorite style, but we’ll have to go back to test that one. The other three were solid brews, I thought.

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The food menu may have staples, but they’re delicious!

We ordered from the menu, which features burgers and New Mexican fare. My wife focuses on meat while I’m mostly a vegetarian, so we complement each other in that sense. We both agreed that the burritos were very good. We would stop again even without the beer.

Cody showed up, and we settled down for a brief interview. My first question was how it all got started.

“We’ve been in the works for about 18 months now. My uncle recently retired from Sandoval County Fire Department,” Cody explained. “And, he was kind of wondering what to do in retirement. He’s big into craft beer, loves, loves craft beer and is friends with this guy, who’s now our master brewer. And so, we just decided, why not?”

Why not, indeed? Those are probably the exact words that have started many a brewery. I asked if they felt bad about competing with Los Ojos, the restaurant and bar across the street that’s been around forever. They tend to have more mainstream beers and liquor drinks, so it’s a mutually beneficial relationship, Cody said.

“We get people in that want a margarita or whatever, so we send them down the road,” he said. “And, people that want a good beer, they come over here.”

The grand opening was last November. They were originally hoping to open on Memorial Day 2018, but there were issues getting their small brewer license. One thing led to another, and May turned into November, the dead of winter.

“This is the slowest time for tourism in this area,” Cody said. “Oh, yeah, we were nervous. (But), we didn’t have any trouble at all. We opened our doors and it’s been good ever since.”

Initially, plans were to have Monica Tolleson subcontract and handle the food side of things with a food truck in front. It didn’t take long for them to realize that it made more sense to just use the existing kitchen on-site.

“We have a whole commercial kitchen,” Cody said. “We do the beer side, and it’s worked really well. Yeah, it’s a nice relationship we’ve got there.”

The building itself has a long history. As mentioned earlier, Cody’s family has been involved with the fire department, so there’s a lot of sentimental attachment to the place. Much of the interior is preserved, and it still has a firehouse vibe. Some modifications had to be made, of course, and some are still to come. They plan to restore the garage doors so that there will be an open concept layout, with seating outdoors on nice days.

The brewer is Dan Garcia, who is retired from the Army. He’s been homebrewing for about 15 years, and he recently completed the CNM brewing certification program. He clearly has the chops for the job.

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Guest taps currently outnumber the house beers, but that will hopefully change down the line.

Because they’re limited in brewing capacity, Cody said they plan to contract out some of their brewing needs. In particular, they can’t keep up with demand for their IPA. Long-term, they would like to have at least nine of their 16 taps filled with their own brews.

Cody said doesn’t mind hosting other people’s beers, though. It gives his customers access to different things to try. In particular, he’s found that ciders are something new to many locals. I asked about future exotic recipes.

“What I would like to see is gin-and-tonic beer, hopefully, something that we could produce that would kind of be that flavor profile that some of that that gin flavor coming in, without actually having gin in it,”Cody said.

That should be interesting!

A high priority for Cody is working with other small, local breweries. He’s friends with the owners of Cantero Brewing in Albuquerque, and he mentioned that he’d also like to work with Brew Lab 101 and 1933 Brewing, both in Rio Rancho. New Mexico’s brewing scene has always had a lot of camaraderie, and the crew from Second Alarm will fit right in.

Further down the road, Cody said they would like to get into craft distilling. While not nearly as popular as brewing beer, there are a growing number of distilleries in New Mexico. Apparently, though, making that happen has logistical problems all its own.

“There’s a lot of strange requirements as far as the size of your building, how you access the distillery versus the brewery, the equipment if on the same premises has to be completely separated with separate entrances,” Cody said.

To make things easier and minimize changes to the building, they may end up opening a second location for the distilling.

Cody explained how Jemez Springs itself was bigger many years ago. There were more restaurants and things to do.

“It kind of dwindled,” he said. “A lot of the owners of the restaurants have passed on and then their kids didn’t want to run them. So they just shut down. We’ve been able to provide quite a few jobs. And it’s been nice, and I’m excited so far.”

It’s clear that he loves his town and is happy to be a part of its growth.

I want to thank Cody and the rest of the staff for their time and excellent, friendly service. We will look forward to returning soon.

Cheers!

— Reid

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The Second Alarm story in their own words.

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Spring is right around the corner (honest!), and with it comes the return of beer festival season. One of the early annual fests is Skiesta, which is held at the Pajarito Mountain ski area above Los Alamos. This year’s edition will be happening this Saturday.

In preparing for this article, I re-read last year’s post, which talked about how dry the winter had been. Well, this year we’ve experienced the complete opposite, as you all know. As I type this just a few days before the festival, yet another snowstorm/hurricane just blasted through the area. That storm should be long gone by the time Skiesta starts, but the extra snow will no doubt guarantee some fine skiing.  (The image below has more details about the skiing events, if that’s your thing.)

In addition to a costume contest, the band Escape on a Horse playing alt-country and Americana styles, and good food from the lodge’s cafe, there will be plenty of fine craft beers. Stoutmeister was able to get the beer lists from the breweries that will be in attendance:

  • Bathtub Row: Mexican Lager, Hoppenheimer IPA, Cherry Wheat, Irish Red
  • Blue Corn: Gatekeeper IPA, Round Midnight Imperial Stout, Roadrunner IPA, Messages from Nowhere ESB, Atomic Blonde
  • Rowley Farmhouse Ales: Greyscale (Merlot Barrel), Cote d’Or (Pinot Noir Barrel), Sonora Weisse
  • Second Street: 2920 IPA, Agua Fria Pils, Cranberry Stout, Black Canyon Porter, Low Winter Sun (Kettle Sour with Cherries), Rod’s Best Bitter, 2019 Imperial Stout (maybe)
  • Tumbleroot: Orange Chocolate Stout, Belgian Pale, American Light Lager, IPA

That’s a nice variety of styles, so you’re sure to find something you like. On a personal note, I visited Blue Corn last weekend and can speak highly of Gatekeeper (the winner of the 2018 NM IPA Challenge) and their Imperial Stout.

Be sure to avail yourself of the complimentary bus service that will be running to and from Sullivan Field next to Los Alamos High School every 30 minutes between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Cheers!

— Reid

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BRB employees, left to right, Justin Sapp, general manager Doug Osborn, head brewer Brandon Venaglia, and Emily Mockler-Wood.

Bathtub Row Brewing (BRB) in Los Alamos will be entering its fourth year of operation in 2019, and the business is entering a period of relative stability. To get the lowdown on where things stand with the brewery, I sat down with general manager Doug Osborn and head brewer Brandon Venaglia.

“The Tub,” as it’s affectionately referred to by many, has now been around long enough that people can’t imagine a time when it didn’t exist. It’s become a mainstay in people’s social lives on the hill. But, it’s also only been four years, which is not a lot of time in the lifespan of a business. At this point, after establishing itself and proving its business mettle, it’s clear the place will be around for many years to come. After an unusually slow start in early 2018 (which Doug said he thinks may have been industry-wide), sales have been on a record pace, up nearly 15 percent over last year.

One of the main points I took away is that BRB is at the point where the staff and Board of Directors are trying to take care of all of its financial burdens and fine-tune its processes and facilities, while at the same time beginning to think about what the next major course of action should be. The initial funding needed to open BRB was in part funded by loans provided by 56 individuals in the community. Those loans are slowly being repaid. Like many people, Doug said he doesn’t want that debt over his head for any longer than is necessary.

“It’s a five-year loan from the time we start paying it off to the time we’re actually done with it,” Doug said. “If I have my way, (it) will be done in two and a half.”

Even with the loans being repaid, there will likely be new equipment purchases in 2019. Brandon and his crew have been working like mad to keep up with demand. The original plan was to brew 350 barrels a year, but they said they’re approaching 1,000. Their most popular beer is, of course, the Hoppenheimer IPA, and they do quadruple batches of that one to keep enough on hand.

They also will be continuing to brew plenty of lagers, including a Mexican lager, so they’re planning to invest in a lagering fermenter. Additional fermenters and a serving vessel are also on the wish list. And, in addition to equipment, the area behind the bar will likely be redone to promote better server efficiency.

“We’re probably going to redesign behind the bar to make it more efficient; we have a bit of a log jam,” Doug said. “Whoever put this bar in never had any idea that we were going to do the volume that we were going to do. It was designed more for comfort, and less for speed.”

At the time of the interview, BRB had two beers available on nitro. They said they plan to use nitro with their stouts and porters, as is common, but also with other styles, as well. They were very proud of their new gas system, which allows them to extract nitrogen from the air and customize the mixtures of the gases they use. They explained that altitude can play a large role in brewing, and at 7,200 feet, BRB is one of the highest breweries in the country. Only Red River Brewing, at 8,600 feet, is higher in New Mexico.

Staffing has been mostly consistent. At least one-third of the roughly 25 people on staff have been around since the opening. Doug and Brandon spoke glowingly about Justin, a former intern and now staff member, who they call their “Young Padawan.” Ashley, the front-of-house manager, will be stepping down to take a position at the National Laboratory, and will likely be replaced by someone in-house.  Doug credits much of his success to his wonderful staff, as well as the Board of Directors that guide the ship.

Addressing industry trends, they said that high ABV brews aren’t as popular as they once were. At one point, a year or two ago, every entry on their list was over 7 percent.

“People come in here to spend several hours,” Brandon said. “They don’t come in here to get really wasted on an 11-percent beer or triple bourbon barrel stout at 16 percent. They’re intriguing, people enjoy them, but we get groups in here that want to sit here for two or three hours of conversation. More of a pub atmosphere with their kids, their dogs, their friends.”

Brandon said he is happy to take suggestions for brews and likes to just do what’s fun, but he noted that he did cave in to a recent trend and is making a hazy IPA.

Longer term, Doug said he has big ideas about investing in renewable energy and water reclamation systems. He feels that a co-op (which BRB is) has an obligation to be more community-oriented and environmentally friendly.

“We go through a ton of water,” Doug said. “There’s the photovoltaic and then the thermal solar. You can heat water up to 500 degrees with a proper thermal solar setup up on a roof, which would save us a ton of money, time, and effort. It’s not cheap. It’s expensive. But, you know, every time I drive by the food co-op coming into town, I love seeing those solar panels. I’m like, they’re doing it right.”

This is an issue that will have to be given a great deal of thought by the Board of Directors of BRB, so don’t expect anything overnight.

Also, in terms of the big picture, Board members and staff are trying to determine what the next big steps should be. Should there be a new taproom in town or in neighboring White Rock? Should they start distributing BRB beers regionally or nationally? Doug wants to make sure things are running smoothly at the current location before anything else is considered.

Events at BRB have included many concerts, notably a few by Vanilla Pop, a very popular regional band. Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham stopped by while campaigning and shared a beer and gave a speech. The NM Brewers Guild’s Stout Invitational was held back in February, and it is turning into a reliable annual event, seeing as how there will be another held in 2019.

A charity golf event for the local charity “All Individuals First” (which provides assistance to adults with special needs) raised $10,000. BRB was given an award by Big Brothers, Big Sisters for raising so much money for that organization. Speaking of awards, they won their second Business of the Year award from the local Chamber of Commerce as well.

BRB also participated in Sierra Nevada’s national fundraiser, brewing an IPA with a recipe provided by them (and with grains and hops provided by Proximity and Yakima). All proceeds (not just profits) from the sale of the Resilience IPA will go to fire relief efforts in California. This reinforces how tight-knit and supportive the brewery community is in New Mexico and nationwide.

BRB is getting into a groove. The new patio seating and fire pit have been very popular.  The beers are excellent. 2018 broke records, and with some fine-tuning in 2019, expect things to be even better.

Cheers!

— Reid

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