Archive for the ‘Beer in Los Alamos’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such historical perspective is often lost on brewers today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

— Reid

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are numerous other fun events planned for the day:

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

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

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

Cheers!

— Reid

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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

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

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

If there was ever a beer perfectly made for a chocolate festival, it's this one.

If there was ever a beer perfectly made for a chocolate festival, it’s this one.

We are a long way from regular festival season, but there are two events this weekend featuring some of our local breweries. Up at Pajarito Mountain above Los Alamos is Skiesta, which Reid previewed earlier this week. Over at the State Fairgrounds is the Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest, a two-day event this Saturday and Sunday.

Skiesta will feature Bathtub Row (naturally), Blue Heron, Santa Fe, Second Street, and Taos Mesa. The SCCF will feature Bosque, Boxing Bear, Santa Fe, and Tractor. So far we have beer lists for four of the five Skiesta breweries and three of the SCCF breweries. As others appear, we will update this post. (UPDATE: We have the full Boxing Bear list below; it is downright ridiculous, in a good way.)

Why attend either festival? Well, with Arizona out (damn it) and Arkansas-Little Rock and Yale already blowing up brackets, it’s not like there is much reason anymore to stay home and watch the NCAA Tournament. Right? Right.

Here are the lists, starting with Skiesta.

Bathtub Row: Irish Red, Dry Stout, Sapphire Pilsner

Blue Heron: IPA, Golden Ale, Stout

Santa Fe: TBA

Second Street: Agua Fria Apricot, ESB, 4 Hour Lunch, Kolsch (gluten removed), Cream Stout, Ringwood Red

Taos Mesa: Mosaic IPA, Sappho Amber, Kolsch 45, Great Scot Scottish Ale

And the SCCF breweries.

Bosque: Momma Always Said (on CO2 and nitro), Bosque Lager, Elephants on Parade, Riverwalker IPA, Marzen, Scotia Scotch Ale, Driftwood Oatmeal Stout

Boxing Bear: Chocolate Milk Stout (fresh batch!), Coffee Chocolate Milk Stout, Baltic Bear, Red Glove, Simcoe SMASH, Uppercut IPA, Ambear, Cider, Sucker Punch DIPA

Santa Fe: TBA (but we gotta imagine Java Stout will be going, right?)

Tractor: Cowboy Coffee Stout, Brass Monkey, Berry Cider

Shake off those post-St. Patrick’s Day hangovers and prepare to head out this weekend, either to the Fairgrounds or up the mountain. Some of us in the Crew will likely be at one or the other. Stop by and say hello if you see us around.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

2016 Skiesta Flier JB rev1 texture2 small

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