Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

The forthcoming Bow & Arrow Rambler Taproom will be smaller than the main location, but it will feature much of the same aesthetic charm.

The recent rumors of an Albuquerque brewery heading to the Four Corners proved to be true earlier this week, as Bow & Arrow Brewing officially announced it will be opening its first offsite taproom in Farmington. The Rambler Taproom is aiming for a winter opening, said Bow & Arrow CEO Shyla Sheppard, and is the product of a long search for a second location that had started in Albuquerque.

“We’ve been looking for a while,” she said. “Actively looked all over Albuquerque and the metro area. We explored quite a few properties, actually. But then again, as you know better than most people, there’s a lot of movement taking place right now in the market. Maybe there’s a future opportunity for us somewhere here, but for our first offsite, the more we looked at the Four Corners area, (we found that) it’s very much in line with how we’ve positioned ourselves, branded ourselves being about the American Southwest, and the Four Corners is really kind of the gateway of all of that.”

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Outgoing Turtle Mountain head brewer Mick Hahn, left, passes the “torch” to new head brewer David Pacheco. Blessed be the beers!

It has been a few years since a head brewer has moved from one Albuquerque area brewery to another. That relatively static era is over as Tractor Brewing looked locally to fill its vacant head brewer position, finding the right man for the job at Turtle Mountain Brewing.

Mick Hahn is jumping from one brewery celebrating its 20th anniversary this year to another, leaving the cozy brewpub confines in Rio Rancho for the bustling production facility in Wells Park. To catch up on how this all went down, I met up with Mick, Tractor co-owner/brewmaster David Hargis, TMBC owner Nico Ortiz, and his new head brewer, David Pacheco.

“It was pretty quick,” Mick said. “David Hargis called me two weeks ago Monday, when Nico was (on vacation) in Costa Rica, which is always good. I had seen the posting for the position on the (New Mexico Brewers) Guild newsletter. I definitely thought about what it would be like to be their head brewer. I didn’t think much of pursuing it until he called to tell me we had been looking for someone, and hadn’t gotten a whole lot of interest and are you interested, because we’re interested in getting you.

“I met with him the next day to just to talk it over a little bit more. I met with him towards the end of the week when Nico was coming back from Costa Rica. They got in Thursday at 5 o’clock and I told him Friday at lunch that this was all happening. I had less than a week to figure out if this was going to go forward.”

Nico said he knew Mick’s departure was almost an inevitability.

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Owner/brewer Sean Lawson welcomed the Crew to Turquoise Trail Brewing for the first time.

The blank spots on the map continue to fill up with breweries and taprooms.

Turquoise Trail Brewing is the latest addition to the East Central corridor, landing at 11016 Central SE, a short drive east of Bombs Away and west of the Tractor Four Hills Taproom. The new brewery has quietly opened, as its own beers are not on tap yet, but owner/brewer Sean Lawson said he needed to start making some money back on a property that he has been leasing for a calendar year now.

“I’m really hoping to have the brewery up and operating in four to six weeks,” Scott said. “I’ll have my own beer on tap in two months. I think that’s pretty realistic.”

For now, there is a wide range of guest taps, many from breweries far, far from the location next door to the Dion’s at Elizabeth and Central. I grabbed a pint of Dialogue’s Nugget to the Rack imperial amber and sat down to find out just what in the world possessed Sean to open Albuquerque’s 35th brewery.

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No one really thought that Bosque North was going to be the final project for the ever-expanding brewing enterprise, right?

Bosque Brewing does not sit still.

Oh, sure, there appear to be stretches of inactivity when it comes to adding more locations to its portfolio, but do not be fooled. Somewhere out there, Bosque has its eye on another taproom, and over the course of this summer, we have all become aware of three forthcoming projects in three different cities.

To learn a lot more about what is coming to Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and Santa Fe, I sat down with three of Bosque’s owners, chief development officer Jotham Michnovicz, chief experience officer Jess Griego, and chief production officer/brewmaster John Bullard.

First up, the new Albuquerque taproom/secondary brewery that will be located on the Westside at Coors and St. Joseph’s. It will effectively be the replacement for the original San Mateo brewery/taproom that closed earlier this year and transformed into La Reforma Brewery. Of course, that original replacement was supposed to be the Open Space project at Venice and the Interstate 25 frontage road.

Jotham said it was not just the seemingly endless series of delays that caused Bosque to scrap Open Space and head west, but a multitude of reasons.

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You do not have to be the Gatekeeper to enjoy the Keymaster.

For part two of Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery’s first year in Santa Fe story, it would be a huge disservice to only talk about the beer. Yes, we’re all about the beer in the Dark Side Brew Crew, but when we talk to a brewery and distillery, with its main taproom doubling as an upscale craft cocktail lounge, and then tripling as a huge family-friendly event and music space — one that will be playing host to Saturday’s Santa Fe round of the IPA Challenge — I would be remiss to skip over such a huge part of the story, especially when it involves putting something interesting and craft into cans.

For the complete Tumbleroot story, I called, emailed, and hunted down director of front of house operations and mixologist, Joseph Haggard, to talk craft cocktails and what they’ll be soon putting into cans. I also tracked down owner/director of business operations Jason Fitzpatrick, to talk music and whether Metal Mondays will stick around, and then I circled back to head brewer Andy Lane to talk about his IPA Challenge beer named Keymaster.

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Head brewer Andy Lane, left, and brewmaster Jason Kirkman get to the root of the issue.

Tumbleroot has been open to the public at both of its locations in Santa Fe for more than a year now. And, in that time, they’ve built a name for themselves in the local beer industry, established several haunts around town for their crafted spirits, and reshaped the landscape of Santa Fe’s nightlife scene, I would say, for the better.

I recently sat down with co-owner and co-founder Jason Kirkman and head brewer Andy Lane to talk about how far exactly Tumbleroot has sunk its roots into Santa Fe’s craft beer scene.

Tumbleroot has  two separate locations in Santa Fe — a brewing/distilling facility and taproom and a taproom/concert hall/event space — one of the only breweries to try such a feat right out of the gate.

It’s been a great learning experience, Kirkman said.

“I think that with our model of doing a full from-scratch brewery and distillery with a full lineup on premise, doing draft and (putting) bottled beer and spirits into distribution, it put a lot on our plate right off the get-go,” he said.

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Bow & Arrow head brewer Ted O’Hanlan loves his new foeder.

The Crew has long been remiss about sitting down and talking with Bow & Arrow head brewer Ted O’Hanlan. Upon seeing photos of a new toy that showed up at his brewery at the end of last week, I decided it was time that we rectify this matter, and lo and behold, our schedules permitted such a time.

Bow & Arrow parted ways with its first brewer in early 2017, just a year after it opened, which prompted a nationwide search for a successor. Ted, who has family ties in the area, came out from North Carolina, and ended up being hired in March of that year.

“I originally did IT work,” he said. “I worked at EPA for a while. Then, when the recession hit and I got laid off, I tried to find a new career path, which involved me going to culinary school. Working for a little while in kitchens and realizing that was not an environment that I particularly liked. I tried my hand at cheese making and farming for a little while.

“I’d been a home brewer that whole time. As I gradually got more serious about my homebrewing, which happened to coincide with the initial boom of brewery openings in North Carolina. That just kind of gave me a door in. I started working at Full Steam. They were originally interested in me because of my culinary background, and it just fit for me.”

After working at Full Steam from 2011 to 2014, and then at Black Tooth from 2014 to early 2017, Ted said he was ready for a change.

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Red Door will be moving its downtown taproom out of this space to a more visible spot on Central. (Photo courtesy of Red Door)

A few quiet months have passed for Red Door Brewing since the last announcement regarding a taproom. In this case, though, it is not a new taproom on deck, but a taproom on the move.

Confused? Well, we sat down with owner Matt Biggs and brewer Matt Meier to figure out just what is going on with the location at the corner of Gold and Fourth Street on the ground floor of the Simms Building.

“We decided we weren’t doing enough when it comes to taprooms, so we decided why not uproot and move another one?” Meier said.

He was joking. Sort of.

The taproom will be on the move to 509 Central Ave. NW, a block north and a block west of its current spot. The space was previously Zullo’s Bistro, and before that it was Blackbird Buvette.

“More people knew it as Blackbird, I think,” Biggs said. “That’s more of our (goal) as well, taking it back to that vibe, which was a real cool place to hang out, that was kind of trendy, but also really relaxed. It has a phenomenal patio.”

The most unique aspect of the spot has to do with licensing.

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The newest brewery in Las Cruces is located in one of the older buildings in town.

Icebox Brewing might just be the most modern, and yet the most historic brewery in Las Cruces. While the brewery has only been open since January, the building it occupies has been around for more than 50 years.

General manager and co-founder Brian Weidauer said that the former home of Sierra Ice and Water at 2825 W. Picacho Ave. seemed to be a natural fit for a brewery.

“We obviously, first and foremost, enjoy beer,” Brian said. “We like the community that craft beer represents, and especially the camaraderie between all the businesses and all the breweries. The owner (John Wright) had an industrial supply business for a long time, a family business, and he recently sold that. I’ve known him for a long time, so we were working together. We paired up with (brewer) Garrett Denmark and started throwing around ideas of what we could build and what we wanted to do.” 

The connections that Wright had to the industrial community led them to a building with a long history.

“We found this building, it used to be an old ice (making) plant,” Brian said. “That’s where the name Icebox comes from. Since Miller has Icehouse, we didn’t want a cease-and-desist letter from them.“ 

Icebox is already one of the largest breweries in Las Cruces by square footage.

The first major brewery in Albuquerque was the Southwestern Brewery and Ice Company, which lasted from 1889 to 1917, and combined both brewing and ice-making. It remained open as an ice plant until the 1970s, though brewing never resumed after Prohibition.

Sierra Ice and Water was never a brewery before, and it certainly does not have a history dating back to the 19th Century, but it does make for a unique setting for a modern brewery.

“We worked hard over the past year or two to repurpose at least this front warehouse and get our brewhouse built, get all the equipment in place, get some recipes developed,” Brian said. “I think our approach to the beers is we kind of make sure most of the styles are very approachable to the general public, but also good enough for the real beer connoisseur.” 

The interior combines a comfortable vibe with the industrial aesthetic.

That approach fits the bulk of the local customers, as well as visitors from nearby El Paso, who are not as well versed in the more eclectic beer styles like people in Albuquerque and Santa Fe are used to these days.

“With the beers that we have, (I) just try to have the styles that are classic and basic, and we can continue to teach people what craft beer is,” said Garrett, who came from nearby Spotted Dog Brewing. “We want to throw some new stuff in there and start working on some kettle sours, and some of the trending beers that are out there, but we also really want to focus on what craft beer is and educate people on that.” 

Icebox has an open brewing area, visible to the entire seating area for its customers. There is a sizable patio out front, facing north toward Picacho Avenue. The bar inside is quite large, but there are plenty of tables as well. There is a small stage for music, and the SoHo food truck is permanently parked outside.

“There’s lots of room for expansion if we need it,” Brian said. “I can show you our walk-in cooler and what we did with that. We had to put everything in (ourselves). We put the sprinkler system in so we could keep the brewing equipment open (for viewing), just separated by the railing. That was very important to us. The investment was made to bring all of that in. Pretty much all of the electrical had to be redone, all the HVAC work is brand new, there wasn’t anything in here. It was kind of a shell of a warehouse.” 

The brewing area is visible from the entire seating area.

There were a few businesses that occupied the building in between the closing of Sierra Ice and Water, but none of them did much to modernize the building.

“We tried to keep the warehouse feel for sure, but make it feel comfortable enough with some little touches,” Brian said. “The big bar was part of our plan, the design from the beginning. We wanted it to be a place where people could sit and talk, make new friends.

“We have two more TVs when we originally even thought we were going to have. There was debate whether we were even going to have TVs for a long time. But, we kind of caved to the fact there’s events on from time-to-time that people are going to want to see. We put four on, but we’re tapped out.” 

Brian said the process of opening Icebox was not all that difficult in terms of dealing with the City of Las Cruces or the State of New Mexico, but he did not have a way to compare it to the struggles that many new breweries face in Albuquerque.

“I can’t relate it to Albuquerque, but I’d say the process overall was fairly smooth,” he said. “There were things we had to change to meet codes, obviously. We had a unique deal where we’re taking a pretty old building and when you repurpose it like that, you have to bring everything up to code. A lot of the things we ran into before we got our final inspection approval had to do with this particular building. It’s just the process, it takes long to come down from Santa Fe and then back to the city.” 

The storage area in the back definitely has the ice plant theme.

The immediate success for Icebox has already led the staff to make the decision to open an offsite taproom.

“We were hoping to really be into some remodeling projects and stuff by June, but it looks we’ll be July,” Brian said. “It’s public knowledge. It’s a Burger Time location up on North Main, 3231 North Main, it’s across from the Lowe’s Home Improvement, right by the I-25/Main Street exchange there.

“Over the years there used to be several neighborhood bars around that area. The liquor license laws and everything over the last 10 to 15 years, it’s disappeared. Right now you have a bar-restaurant up on Sonoma Ranch that’s pretty high up on Highway 70, (and from there to) all the way down to downtown, there’s nothing on Main Street anymore. We feel like it’s a great location for a neighborhood taproom/restaurant, just that local place to go and serve that side of town.” 

If you don’t get the joke here, there is nothing we can do for you.

The Shivering Scotsman (6.4% ABV, 24 IBU) and Black Ice Lager (5.1% ABV, 20 IBU) were both solid malt-forward beers. There are still many more to try, so rest assured that the Crew will return to Icebox on our next trip to Las Cruces.

A big thanks to Brian and Garrett for the beer and the interview on a busy day (Blazin’ Brewfest was just five hours away when we sat down).

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Welcome to Icebox Brewing, the newest addition to the Las Cruces craft beer scene.

Las Cruces is the second largest city in New Mexico, but for years, its craft beer scene was far behind Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and even some smaller towns.

There was High Desert Brewing, which had followed in the footsteps of O’Ryan’s Tavern (closed in 2000), and the Pecan Grill was contract brewing with Sierra Blanca, and that was about it. Then along came Spotted Dog Brewing, Picacho Peak Brewing, and most recently Icebox Brewing.

The north came south when Bosque Brewing opened a taproom across the street from New Mexico State, the alma mater of its owners. Bosque has since expanded to two locations in the same complex, with rumors of a third location now in the works. Silver City’s Little Toad Creek Brewing and Distilling saw an opportunity and pounced, putting a taproom on Main Street. Truth or Consequences Brewing now has plans to open a taproom in town, and Icebox is already eyeing its first offsite taproom.

Craft beer real estate is filling up fast in the city with a metro area population of 200,000 (and counting). Prior to ABQ Beer Week, when I was already in town for the Blazin’ Brewfest, I stopped to chat with representatives of High Desert, Icebox, and Spotted Dog about how their scene is evolving, how a sense of local camaraderie has already taken hold, and what the future portends.

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