Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

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.

(more…)

It was an informative gathering inside Tractor’s brewery area, with (from left) Bosque’s Jess Griego, Tractor’s David Hargis, La Cumbre’s Jeff Erway, Tractor’s Skye Devore, Senator Martin Heinrich, Taos Mesa’s Jayson Wylie, Canteen’s Jamie Schwebach, and higher up, Hollow Spirits’ Frank Holloway and NM Brewers Guild executive director Leah Black. Oh, and some beer writer on the far right.

Senator Martin Heinrich was in Albuquerque last week, and representatives of the New Mexico Brewers Guild were able to set up a meeting with him to talk all things craft beer in regards to the federal government.

Tractor Brewing co-owner/president Skye Devore spearheaded the event, which was held inside the brewery at Wells Park. The Senator certainly seemed to appreciate the informal nature of the event, which featured a sizable charcuterie tray and free drinks for all, not to mention being free of the usual political debate.

Over the course of a half-hour, numerous topics were discussed between the Senator and a group that included Skye, Tractor co-owner/brewmaster David Hargis, La Cumbre owner Jeff Erway, Hollow Spirits owner Frank Holloway, New Mexico Brewers Guild executive director Leah Black, Guild board members Jayson Wylie (Taos Mesa), Jamie Schwebach (Canteen), and Jess Griego (Bosque), and one beer writer who was there to chronicle it all.

The meeting featured both the Guild members asking questions of the Senator, and the Senator in turn asking questions of them.

(more…)

No, we did not ask Mayor Tim Keller to wear that shirt, he did it on his own, and we approve.

Sometimes, to get what you want, it really is all about who you know. In our case, we just needed long-time friend-of-the-Crew Carlos Contreras’ help to land an interview with Mayor Tim Keller. After a careful negotiation of our schedules (mainly his), we were able to sit down with our Metal Mayor over a pint of Munich Dunkel at Dialogue Brewing to discuss all things craft beer in Albuquerque.

“Well, I think at a very surface level, it’s something we’re very good at,” Keller said of our craft brewing industry. “This is a pride thing for us. I forget the exact publication or ranking, but we’re top 10 or top 25 in all of them. I think in one we’re top five. That’s just a great thing for our city in general.

“I think there’s a lot of things that people take for granted, like our open space, our outdoors, and our culture. And, in some ways now, it’s our brewing scene. I think we’ve come to expect it (to always be there) and we don’t realize it’s actually something special.”

(more…)

The frame has gone up and the foundation has been poured for the future Tractor taproom in Los Lunas, the brewery’s original home.

Twenty years ago, Tractor Brewing came to life in the Village of Los Lunas. Five years ago, it left the village behind, moving all of its brewing operations to Albuquerque. Later in 2019, it will move back to Valencia County in the form of its fourth offsite taproom.

To get a better read on this version of you can go home again, I sat down with Tractor president/co-owner Skye Devore. Her brewery already has three offsite taprooms in Albuquerque — Nob Hill, Four Hills, Westside — but the opportunity to add another was too good to pass up.

“Because we wanted to do another something, and we feel like Albuquerque has got a lot of Tractor right now,” Skye said. “We thought it would be a good idea for something not in Albuquerque, but I don’t want to drive too far, so Los Lunas seems perfect. There’s a lot going on there economically right now.

“I remember when we were there before, it used to be so hard to convince anybody to drink craft. Now it’s just not like that anymore. Now it’s a great place to be.”

The brewery will be located off Main Street, not far from the Facebook Data Center.

(more…)

The calm before the storm … of fun! Marble will celebrate its 11th anniversary with a huge street party this Saturday.

Marble Brewery is growing up fast, with its 11th birthday coming up this weekend. Naturally, being Marble and all, the staff is throwing a huge fiesta for all of its loyal patrons, with additional events and beer releases sprinkled throughout the week.

To get the lowdown on all of it, I sat down with marketing director Geraldine Lucero, who is the keeper of all celebratory knowledge at 111 Marble Avenue.

“We’ve got an event planned every night this week,” she said. “We kicked it off with our Brew Club appreciation party on the deck (on Monday). It was just our way of saying thank you to all of our loyal patrons that have been there. A lot of them have been Brew Club members for a long time. So we just gave them some free food, our way of saying thank you, that we love you, and without them we couldn’t do it. That’s what this whole week is about, saying thank you by giving (our customers) these awesome events to be entertained with.”

The beer dinner is nearly sold out tonight, while the 19.2-ounce cans will go quickly Saturday.

Next up on the event calendar is a first-time beer dinner collaboration between Marble and a popular Nob Hill restaurant.

“Tonight we are doing a beer dinner at Frenchish in Nob Hill,” Geraldine said. “Josh (Trujillo) and I met with Chef Jennifer James and her team. It’s been a weeks now, but we hosted them here to taste some beers and work on a menu. It’s going to be her first beer dinner, I believe. She said it’s a little out of my element, but she’s such a talented chef that I’m really excited to see how the dinner goes tonight. We’re close to that, a close sellout, too. We have a few seats left for that. My goal is to sell out every event this week.”

Call (505) 433-5911 to see if you can still get a reservation. The cost is $75 per person for a four-course dinner that starts at 6 p.m.

“We’re really excited about that,” Geraldine said. “We’re going to feature the last keg of the 111 Rosé that John Heine brewed. We’re bringing eight Marble team members. I’m just really excited. I love beer dinners, I love Jennifer James, and I love Frenchish. I sought them out and asked them to have this beer dinner with us because they’re amazing.”

(more…)

Despite its hidden location, customers are finding their way to Cantero.

The best laid plans do not always come to fruition. We sent one of our writers to Cantero Brewing back in the fall, only to have him then move to California for a new job. After deciding that he was never going to actually send us the story, I trekked over to the brewpub at 3351 Columbia Dr. NE to catch up with brewers David Rosebeary and George Gonzales.

“I think it’s been going really well, actually,” David said. “We’ve been really busy. We hit that normal lull around wintertime. That’s definitely a lesson learned. Other than that, we’ve just been more familiar with our brewhouse. I feel like the quality of the beer is getting better and better.”

Located in the Brewery District just a few blocks from Canteen Brewhouse and La Cumbre, Cantero has managed to find its niche since our first visit thanks in large part to its extensive food menu.

“I think so, and also we’ve been using beer in our recipes,” David said. “Like our chicken and waffles, we use our (red chile) stout in their syrup. We have a pretty close relationship with our kitchen. Whenever (our chef is) choosing stuff, he’s also asking us for pairing ideas.”

The food menu at Cantero has been a major draw.

That synergy between the kitchen and brewing team has helped. A sizable lunch crowd arrived on a weekday as the interview took place.

Of course, much like the brewery there before it, Cantero has had to deal with its somewhat remote and random location, just south of Aztec and a block east of the I-25 northbound frontage road. So far, though, customers have managed to find their way.

“A lot of people are saying they finally made it in,” George said. “We’ve had people who had us on their to-do list, but they finally tracked us down. We did do a Groupon that got us some exposure. We had a pretty good success with that, it got a lot of people to finally make it in.

“That was a big part of the Groupon that we did was that it featured food as part of the deal. That way they get exposure to the whole product that we offer. Hopefully they come back for the beer.”

David said for the most part, customers are finding Cantero simply through social media and the like.

“Basically, that’s it,” David said. “We’re just really focusing on natural growth. We’re not trying to do too much to coerce people into coming. We want them to come of their own accord. We’ve got a lot of word-of-mouth.”

The weekday lunch crowd found their way to the brewpub.

Like so many breweries that have come before, in that spot and elsewhere around town, finding out what the public wants in the styles of beer has proven to be a bit of a surprising challenge for Cantero.

“That’s how it’s been going; it’s pretty interesting to see what hits and what doesn’t,” David said.

“It’s a tug of war between the serving tanks, we’re trying to log what’s been selling and what’s not, and then all of a sudden we’ll face a lull,” George added.

“It’s really hard to figure out,” David said. “Springtime we’re figuring more sours are going to be working its way out, but even on some of the nicer days it seems the darker beers are working. That’s sort of been a surprise.”

As if they were speaking of me, I ordered a Deaf Dog Brown, which was smooth, creamy, and not-too-sweet.

“The brown is going to stick around, it’s one of our favorites,” George said. “It’s not the fastest seller but it’s definitely steady. That’s the one in the last month or so it went boom. I was thinking warmer weather, we were going to dial in the lagers and some of the lighter offerings, but people are digging the dark.”

The rich and creamy Deaf Dog Brown.

David and George do have the advantage of a 1-barrel pilot system alongside their 10-barrel brewhouse, which gives them the chance to play around with some unique beers without ending up with too much left over.

“Definitely keeping things steady is (key),” David said. “We have our pilot system that we like to brew on, so there’s some funky offerings coming from there, some fun stuff coming.”

The duo is looking everywhere and anywhere for what might be the next beer style to hit it big.

“I have friends in other areas,” George said. “I have a friend who works in a beer bar in New York. He’s a genuine geek, working on his doctorate there at NYU, but he’s also a bit of a beer geek. I try to see what’s happening over there. We’re trying to see different trends, if we can get an early jump on something, which would be nice.”

One area where the brewers have seen growth on the national market is with beers with a lower ABV (alcohol by volume).

“I’ve noticed, even as far as national brands, the craft ones, gravitating toward smaller beers with bigger flavors,” George said. “I really like how some substantial some people’s 4-percenters are. I think that might be something we’d like to approach, to give that lighter option, get a few lawnmower beers out there.”

David mentioned he would like to see some hop-forward beers with a substantial amount of flavor, but sticking to the lower ABV trend.

“Not so much toward the session IPA (trend),” George added. “For me that was never really a hit. I wanted to like them, but I never really found one. But, I like the idea.”

Brewers George Gonzales, left, and David Rosebeary, from a prior visit of ours to Cantero, are quite proud of that old workhorse of a boiler back there.

Neither David nor George had ever brewed on a commercial scale before, but both said they are a lot more in sync with the main brewhouse and the old-school boiler in the back.

“The boiler has actually been doing” — knocks on wood — “really well the last couple months,” David said. “We’re working with our boiler guys and they’ve got it dialed in pretty well. The brewhouse, I think, has been performing well and we’re definitely getting more comfortable with it and used to it, so brew days have been going a lot more smoothly.”

“Scaling (up) has been a lot less problematic,” George added.

With things settling down internally, Cantero will be participating in more events this year, starting with Albuquerque Beer Week in May.

“We have an event here for Beer Week, we’re going to do a beer release, (but) I’m not comfortable saying what that is going to be quite yet,” David said. “We’re going to be doing a beer release and probably a food pairing as well.”

There is also a potential block party with Canteen, Palmer, and Red Door tentatively scheduled during Beer Week, assuming the City of Albuquerque approves, George said. Cantero will also be part of the biggest event of Beer Week.

“We’ll be at Blues & Brews,” David said. “We’re starting to get out there a little bit more. We don’t want to participate to the detriment of what we have on stock here. We want to participate, (but) we’re just trying to hedge our bets a little bit.”

We still dig this old truck that’s permanently parked out front.

A big thanks to David and George for taking time out of their brew day to chat. We look forward to what they have coming down the pipeline, particularly that multi-brewery block party if it comes to pass.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Duel Brewing gives up the fight

Posted: April 4, 2019 by Luke in Brewery Obit, Interviews
Tags:
DawsonAtDuel

Former Duel general manager Mark Dawson

In the Dark Side Brew Crew, we like to think of ourselves as champions for the industry. We’re not gotcha journalism, never have been. We’re here to tell the stories of all the state’s breweries, your stories. We can only ever hope that they’re all stories brewed up with good vibes and happy endings, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case. It’s a difficult thing to write about a brewery’s end, especially when, for years, we’ve considered much of the staff to be our friends. But, it wouldn’t be right not to write on the negative stories as well.

It’s very easy to let the story slip by, say nothing, and navigate away from what might be treacherous waters, but our coverage of the New Mexico brewing industry would be incomplete if we didn’t do a story on Duel Brewing’s untimely closure.

We first reached out to Duel’s owner, Trent Edwards, days after the closing of Duel’s Santa Fe location. After receiving no response, we let it go for a time, until I sort of bumped into and met Mark Dawson. I was having a beer at Rowley Farmhouse Ales one night after the gym, and I couldn’t help but overhear the bartender saying that he had just left his job as former general manager of Duel Brewing.

My journalistic curiosity, paired with his need to tell his tale, led to a series of conversations and emails, all resulting in a collaboration on the story of the end of Santa Fe’s Belgian-style brewery.

(more…)

Yeah, it was crowded for a couple hours at the farewell fiesta for Bosque’s San Mateo taproom.

The Bosque San Mateo taproom closed out its nearly seven-year run with a farewell fiesta on Saturday. The only thing is, Bosque will still be brewing at that location, even with La Reforma Brewery set to take over the taproom space this summer. How it will all work going forward comes down to one word — synergy — as 8900 San Mateo NE moves into the future.

To get all of this cleared up, I sat down with La Reforma co-founder John Gozigian, Bosque chief experience officer/owner Jess Griego, and Bosque chief executive officer/owner Gabe Jensen.

“There’s a lot of confusion over who’s behind each thing,” John said. “So La Reforma is a project that was put together by me, Jeff Jinnett, and some investors we brought in. Bosque is involved as well. They contributed basically the entire physical plant, brewing and kitchen equipment, and are substantial owners of the company, too.

“There’s been a lot of synergies developed as the project has moved forward. We’ve figured out a lot of efficiencies and synergies that I think will be good for both businesses. One of the coolest things that’s happening is the current brewers at Bosque San Mateo are going to remain on site and be the brewers for La Reforma. And, they’re also going to be brewing all of Bosque’s one-offs and seasonals for the foreseeable future.”

(more…)

The New Mexico Brewers Guild Board of Directors has selected Marble’s Leah Black as its next executive director.

The next step in the evolution of the New Mexico Brewers Guild will come with the appointment of its new executive director, who just happens to be someone familiar to most people involved in the local craft beer community.

Marble Brewery public relations and social media director Leah Black will officially succeed John Gozigian on March 25. The Board of Directors chose Leah based on her connections throughout the industry, her marketing background, and her enthusiasm for, well, just about everything.

“Social media is my passion, but the beer industry (as a whole) is my passion,” Leah said. “It’s really hard, because I have a big chunk of my heart here (at Marble). But, I also am a firm believer in paying attention to what the universe brings to you.”

Initially, Leah did not apply for the job. The Board eventually reached out to her and others who seemed like good candidates.

“We advertised that the position was available, we advertised through our newsletter, on Indeed, and also on Brewbound dot com,” John said. “A lot of the resumés we were getting through employment websites, nobody really had relevant experience. We did get a handful of resumés from the local beer community and we actually had several good candidates. It was a tough decision, actually.

“When we weighed each candidates’ skills and personality, reputation within the community, everything gelled around Leah. We didn’t get much through our traditional sources. What the Board decided to do was reach out to people in the community that they thought would be good candidates.”

(more…)