Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

The old brewhouse is still going strong at Chama River, now brewing most of the beers for Kellys Brew Pub.

There are still faint echoes of the brewpub that was at Chama River. The booths are still there, the copper-top bar is still present, and much of the kitchen equipment remains. It has all gathered some dust since Chama closed its doors in August 2017, but one thing remains operational — the brewhouse.

Yes, there are still beers being made at Chama, even with the rest of the business shut down. That is where Andrew Krosche, the director of brewing operations for Santa Fe Dining, spends most of his time. With a year to reflect on what happened, I sat down with Andrew at that copper-top bar recently over pints of his crisp and clean American Pilsner.

“So when we took Kellys over and Chama was still open, plus Blue Corn, we had three breweries working independently under one umbrella,” Andrew said. “Once Chama was closed, we continued working out of Chama, that’s (assistant brewer) Cordell (Rincon) and I at the time, brewing for inter-company distribution under the Chama name cause there was a few beers throughout the restaurants that were staples.”

With the Chama brewhouse still at his disposal, Andrew soon decided how it would best be used.

“Somewhere around that time, when you’re only brewing enough to keep a few restaurants going, it’s hard to make sure the product is fresh,” he said. “So in response to that, also knowing that Kellys with pretty slow with lots of drama that happened right before we bought it, I decided to bring all the brewers together under one roof and work out of Chama’s system, that being the best system in the company. I spent a lot of time rebuilding this facility in the two years that Chama was still open. Also, it kind of gave everyone a chance to work on the same level, to understand my terminology and what was expected. Everyone was on the same page.”

The tanks are still full of beer in Chama’s walk-in cooler.

Andrew, along with Blue Corn head brewer Paul Mallory and Kellys head brewer Dan Cavan, have been able to stay on that same page since.

“Fast forwarding to now, we’ve got the eight house beers at Kellys, (plus) a few inter-company accounts up in Santa Fe,” Andrew said. “It works out very nicely to continue working out of here (because), one, we can brew smaller batches, keeping everything fresh, keeping the quality up. Everything is served out of kegs over at Kellys, so it’s easy enough to have them to place an order for the week and then we can just use the delivery van. In that case, it’s really nice.”

It also helps in one other area for Kellys.

“Kellys, obviously, doesn’t have a barrier between the brewery and the restaurant,” Andrew added. “It is kind of nice brewing here and not worrying about say guests wandering into the brew space. Not that it’s their fault, you would have no idea you couldn’t come back there. For me, it’s just a huge liability because if we’re CIPing and some caustic sprays onto some innocent bystander, it’s not the best of things.

“That’s kind of where we are with this facility. We’ve definitely been enjoying it with this little retreat.”

On occasion, the Kellys brewhouse does get fired up to make a beer or two.

“We have been brewing, or had been brewing, occasionally over there, keeping the machinery still going,” Andrew said. “It’s like an old car, you don’t want to let it sit too long or more problems start. That, and obviously we have to keep our small brewing license and we have to have a minimum of barrelage. So we do that to supplement, usually with some of our top sellers or brews that work really well on that system, as opposed to the ones here.”

Certain styles of beer actually tend to turn out better on Kellys’ system, as opposed to the Chama brewhouse.

“The water in this city is great for stouts, and they’ve got minor filter system and no softener,” Andrew said. “Brewing over there for something like the stout or apricot (wheat) is fine with the city water. Whereas over here, I would never brew the lager there. Here I’ve got a water treatment facility to ensure it’s the best I can make it for the water.”

What was once a bar is now a brewer’s office.

Andrew has managed to turn the bar area into his own office. His laptop and a pile of paperwork sit atop the bar. He keeps a few clean glasses behind the bar as well, for quality control and that sort of thing. Those couches that were over by the entrance have been moved to where the tables used to sit by the bar. There is one TV still running, with the laptop hooked up to it. A pile of beer books sits on one of the remaining tables below it.

As for how long this setup will continue for Andrew, Chama River, Kellys, and all the rest, it is a bit of an ongoing mystery.

“Honestly, I don’t even know,” he said. “I know we own it and (Santa Fe Dining president) Gerald Peters likes that he owns it. As far as I know, selling is not something that is an option. I’ve definitely written game plans for any scenario, mainly because if and when something happens, I want to make sure that my crew is ready, that we can handle it. Just a little preemptive planning, but you never know. This isn’t like moving some kitchen equipment, this is going to require weeks of moving. ”

The craft beer world around the old-timers like Kellys and Blue Corn continues to evolve, but for the most part, the brewpubs have seen neither a sharp rise in business, nor a sudden decline.

“Looking at numbers, if we’re just going to go barrelage-wise, nothing has really changed, at least since I’ve been running things,” Andrew said. “Blue Corn’s barrelage has been the same for the last four years or so. Chama’s was for the two years I was here with it. Kellys is about the same. We’re not getting massive growth. I think a lot of reasons for that is there’s a lot more places to go. There’s a lot more neighborhood pubs. The traffic of going to the places nearest to you is not ours nowadays.

“But, being steady and consistent, that’s a plus. I’m confident that with Paul already (winning) the IPA Challenge, I’m sure that his numbers are growing right now, which is great. With the changes that Dan and myself have kind of put (into) Kellys, working on recipe development and really trying to show the public that it’s different, I feel that we can start seeing a rise soon. Maybe not through this winter, but by next spring I feel like things will change for the better.”

With so many other craft beer options out there, Andrew said it has been tough convincing folks to give Kellys another chance.

“Unfortunately, yes, (but) then our marketing team is doing their best to let the public know that things are different,” he said. “I think the challenges that we run into is a lot of times Kellys is obviously one of the oldest breweries in Albuquerque and they had gained a (bad) reputation over so many years, that a lot of times people I feel when they hear Kellys they just kind of zone out.

“They’re not even paying attention that it is a new ownership, a new brewing team, a lot of it is word of mouth. I’ve been pushing a lot of festivals for Kellys. If we can’t get the public to hear us, let’s get some samples in their hands so we can prove to them right there, real time, that this product is superior to what it used to be.”

One of the ways to do that was to move some of the Chama recipes to Kellys.

“We did cross a few beers over to Kellys,” Andrew said. “The Sleeping Dog Stout is now a Kellys beer. We didn’t change it at all, it’s a strong, solid stout that’s been around forever. The Kellys IPA, for lack of a better word, is practically the Jackalope.”

Even brewers need a comfy spot to take a break now and again.

After a brief chat about the many late summer/early fall festivals, Andrew explained one of his other strategies with Kellys that differs from many of the other breweries around town.

“The way I’ve focused Kellys right now is, cause you were asking about what we’re taking to festivals and if we’ve changed it or not, we have eight house beers as opposed to your typical six and four specials,” he said. “What brings in regulars is your house beers, not your specials. We wanted a good, broad menu that caters to everyone’s tastes and really focus on those to make sure those are the best that we can give, and not worry about specials as much.

“When we build a menu for a festival, we typically don’t change it and we are very rarely going to take a special, because we want the house beers to be the focus. We want people to know they can come into the restaurant at any time and that beer will be there just as the way that they remembered it.”

Of course, just like any mad scientist brewer, Andrew is still cooking up some innovative seasonal/specialty beers from time to time.

“Speaking of specials, it’s very rare that we do one so when we do one we get pretty pumped about it, not sure when this is going to be released because we have to taste it over the next few weeks, but I just transferred an American pale ale into the server onto cocoa nibs and coconut extract,” he said. “So we’re making like a chocolate coconut pale ale, and it’s very hop forward. It drinks almost like an IPA, but the alcohol is like a pale ale. We’re pretty excited about it. It smells great. We picked the hop bill to match the coconut.”

We definitely look forward to trying that rather offbeat-sounding beer whenever it is ready. I will highly recommend the American Pilsner, as well, and Canteen head brewer Zach Guilmette swung by later to hang out for a bit, whereupon he declared it to be one of his favorite lagers in town.

For the most part, it is just good to see a great brewer like Andrew still getting to showcase his talent, even if the current setup between Chama and Kellys is a bit unusual. We encourage everyone to head back to Kellys and give the beers there another shot. We will certainly be stopping by after we get back from the Great American Beer Festival later this week.

Thanks to Andrew for the interview, the beers, and the tour through the ghostly little building he still inhabits.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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In their finest bow ties, the Blue Corn boys heft the hardware

SANTA FE — It has now been a few weeks since Blue Corn Brewery brought home the New Mexico IPA Challenge trophy. With their busy late-summer schedules, and their transition to a new chef and menu, the staff just now got around to celebrating. Well, they did it in true Blue Corn fashion with another epic beer dinner to give Santa Fe a chance to cheer Blue Corn’s big win, as well as introduce us to the new man behind the menu.

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General manager Michelle Kyle introduces head chef Josh Ortiz.

Chef Ortiz had just moved across town from Rio Chama, one of Santa Fe Dining’s more upscale establishments, just a 5-minute stroll from the Plaza. It was there that he truly sharpened his knife as the sous chef. Before that, he worked under Kelly Rodgers at La Casa Sena, another fine downtown eatery.

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Baby arugula, fresh pomegranate, triple cream brie, avocado, basil vinaigrette, pine nuts, pomegranate balsamic reduction, all paired with Pomegranate Gose.

“We’re all really excited that (Ortiz) is here,” assistant brewer Andy Lane said. “His new dishes (on the updated menu) are amazing.”

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Shrimp Tempura, jumbo lump crab salad, crispy wonton chip, spicy mango chutney, micro cilantro, all paired with La Marcha Wedding Lager.

Across four courses, we really got to know what Ortiz brings to the table. From the arugula salad with fresh pomegranate, pine nuts, and brie, to the jumbo lump crab salad with shrimp tempura, to the duck confit with orange segments and orange glaze, and finally to the dessert course of dark chocolate custard with whipped cream mousse and macerated strawberries, we all got a thorough introduction to Ortiz’s chops.

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Duck confit, white bean summer succotash, roasted cipolini onions, orange segments, frisee, orange glaze, all paired with Gatekeeper IPA.

Having been to several of these beer dinners now, I thought that the food was much better in practice than it was on paper. I’ve seen arugula salads and duck confit dishes in a few multi-course prix fixe menus, but at Blue Corn that night, each course was so creatively crafted, balanced, and paired that each dish felt fresh and exciting. Each bite was a new trip down the rabbit hole, chaotic and uncertain of where you’ll land, but in a very good way. I regret that I didn’t take a look at the new and updated regular menu, but after stuffing myself with so much deliciousness, I couldn’t possibly think about more food for a few days. Can you blame me?

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Dark chocolate custard, graham cracker-hazelnut crust, whipped cream mousse, macerated strawberries, all paired with Oatmeal Stout.

That night in Santa Fe, Blue Corn brewers also hoisted up the IPA Challenge trophy for the second time in the brewery’s history. The first win came from John Bullard in 2013 with his Resurgence IPA. Blue Corn is still the only brewery to win this coveted trophy from outside the Albuquerque metro area. Last year, head brewer Paul Mallory wasn’t as pleased with how his IPA ultimately turned out.

“I wanted more from it,” he said.

This year, he and Lane really worked on getting the recipe to where they thought it should be.

I reached out to Mallory to get an idea as to what the IPA Challenge win means to him, to Blue Corn Brewery, as well as the New Mexico craft beer industry.

DSBC: What does winning the IPA Challenge mean to you, personally?

Mallory: Winning the IPA Challenge means a lot to me. It was a really great way to get people excited about trying our beer. It was really amazing to be able to celebrate with family, friends, co-workers, and customers as well.

DSBC: How does winning the IPA Challenge impact Blue Corn’s current production?

Mallory: We have had trouble keeping the Gatekeeper on tap since the win. We have all of our other beers we’re trying to keep up with at the moment, too. But, we will do our best to keep brewing the Gatekeeper. As long as people keep enjoying it, I’ll keep brewing it.

DSBC: When will it be available again?

Mallory: We currently have it on tap now. I hope it will be on for another week or so, but you never know how fast it will go.

DSBC: Plans for next year’s challenge?

Mallory: I haven’t thought about next year’s competition yet. I’m not sure if we’ll change it up or not.

DSBC: Why do you feel it’s important that we have competitions like this?

Mallory: I think competitions like this are great because they push brewers to be their best or most extreme, depending on the competition. In New Mexico, I really feel the competitions help build camaraderie as well. The NM Brewers Guild does a great job with that aspect of it.

DSBC: Lastly, what’s Blue Corn taking to GABF?

Mallory: We are taking the Gatekeeper IPA, Gold Medal Oatmeal Stout, End of the Trail Brown Ale, Barrel Aged Cosmic Darkness, and Pomegranate Gose to GABF this year.

Blue Corn Brewery will have a booth at the event.

* * * * *

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Cheers to more beer dinners!

I would personally like to thank all the staff at Blue Corn Brewery for their hard work and incredible hospitality. To your well-deserved victory, to your new chef, we raise ‘em up!

Cheers!

— Luke

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I don’t always drink fancy cocktails… But when I do, I do it in a Maiden shirt.

For more #craftbeer news, @nmdarksidebc info, and shameless Untappd check-ins follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro. Untappd: SantaFeLuke

Brewmaster John Bullard stands before his now complete production brewery. Well, leans, because he probably could use a nap at this point.

During my visit with the Bosque Brewing command staff at their new office/warehouse space last week, we also spent a lot of time talking about the final preparations for Bosque North and its series of openings. There was an industry-invite-only opening on Wednesday, and it will host the final round of the NM IPA Challenge on Saturday, before concluding with the grand opening Monday.

It has been a long, laborious process for Bosque to get the combined production brewery and taproom space up and running. From a lengthy delay caused by construction on Highway 550 (or, more aptly, waiting to figure out how that construction should proceed), to then converting an old building into a state-of-the-art brewery, it has not been easy.

We had Luke do a little photoshopping to show how much things have changed since our first trip to Bosque North in March, putting some similar photos side-by-side, including this one of the brewery interior.

The trio of managing director Gabe Jensen, director of operations Jotham Michnovicz, and director of culture and engagement Jessica Griego took me through the final days of preparing North for occupancy. I then took another tour with director of brewing operations John Bullard for a fresh set of photographs to show just how far the construction has come since my last visit in early March.

“I was telling Gabe yesterday, every time we’ve opened a taproom, it’s all hands on deck for 12 to 16 hours a day,” Jotham said. “Yesterday, I had a meeting with Gabe in our office and everything that needed to be handled was being handled by our team over in that spot. I didn’t even have to be there yesterday, which is really cool to see our team come together and be able to handle (everything).”

Another shot of the brewery looking down from the second floor, albeit from a slightly different angle, since the original view is now a solid wall.

While John and production manager Tim Woodward have things handled in the brewery, the front-of-house staff has come together to take charge of the taproom area.

“We actually have as our taproom liaison, he moved up from Las Cruces, his name is Max Portillo,” Jessica said. “He’s been an essential leader on our Las Cruces team for four years now. We’ve been nudging him every time we saw him to move up here and he did. We’re super excited for him. He’s stepping into a new role, but he’s a seasoned leader at Bosque.

“We’ve had maybe one or two other transfers internally, but otherwise it’s all new people. Well, our kitchen manager, he transferred from Nob Hill, his name is Mitch O’Connor. The key management positions are internal, but for the most part we’ve hired from the community, Bernalillo and northern Rio Rancho. That was really a goal of ours to make sure we hired from within the community and were representative of it.”

The front patio is now ready to go, with tables just out of sight and the window to the interior bar ready to go.

The team led by Max and Mitch was going through training while I was taking the tour with John, making sure everything would be ready for the inevitable crush of humanity headed their way.

“I think that’s one of the funnest things about opening a restaurant in general, is that camaraderie than happens whenever there is a launch team,” Jotham said. “We’ve got 30 new hires, they were all in this (conference) room doing orientation, getting to know each other and building that rapport with each other. They were there yesterday, putting everything away. It creates a little bit of ownership for the staff. You get to be a part of setting the building up, knowing where everything is going to go. Some of my fondest memories are of opening a restaurant.”

The view from the second floor patio/deck is looking better by the day. Now if they would only finish up on Highway 550’s bridge.

The brewing staff did have to get bigger as well.

“A lot of our brewing staff came over from San Mateo,” Jotham said. “It’s a pretty light staff over there now. We did bolster the team as well, we hired some new positions. I’d say the majority of the people that were on our brewing team are now at Bernalillo.”

“They were brewers or they moved from elsewhere on staff to join the brewing team, packaging team, cellar, all that,” Gabe added.

The interior of the tower now features a big screen TV and a bar just to the right of frame.

The canning line is already up and running, meaning that at last, all Bosque packaged beer is being brewed and canned in New Mexico.

“We’re doing it,” Gabe said. “We got our last shipment of IPA a week ago. That was the last (overall). Everything from here on out that’s produced will be at Bernalillo.

“It’s getting to that point where I can’t keep up. They’ve already canned Elephants on Parade twice. That was the one thing that we were super nervous about because we hadn’t done it. The first run was like oh, that went perfect.”

The silo has its logo. John swears it glows in the dark, but we’re a bit skeptical (someone has been working some very long shifts, FYI).

Bosque did receive a large number of unused cans from Sleeping Giant in Denver, so try not to get confused if you still see the old labeling.

“We’ve had some other hiccups with packaging, but that’s going to happen,” Gabe said. “We got permission from the TTB to put beer in the cans that (still) say Denver, and we’ll just have to stamp them on the bottom to say NM next to the date, just so we can use up those cans. There will be a transition period of a couple months of where we’re brewing it here, but it will still have Denver packaging.”

The first cans with a full New Mexico label, as opposed to an underside stamp, will be the 1888, but Gabe and Jotham said they are waiting on the cartons to arrive before they can can the beer.

Think that’s enough cans to keep all of you happy? What? It’s not? Jeez, people, you just can’t get enough Elephants on Parade, can you?

What will really get beer geeks excited, however, is what else will be going into cans in the near future.

“We’ll be doing some one-off can specialty releases as well,” Jessica said. “That’s probably our biggest (project). … I’m the most excited about that, to be able to release some specialty beers in cans, and showcase our quality and what we can do out there.”

“I think that’s one of the things that’s John is most excited about,” Gabe added.

The canning line is already getting a workout, with lots more to come, including specialty releases!

John confirmed that he does have four specialty cans on the docket, all of which will come in 16-ounce cans in four packs, as opposed to the 12-ounce six-pack cans for the regular offerings.

So what will a couple of those cans contain? Well, one just might be a past two-time National and New Mexico IPA Challenge winner, and the other might be a former Great American Beer Festival medal winner of a certain fresh hop persuasion.

“There’s a good variety in there, too,” Jessica said. “We’ve got a wide range of styles. We still have to figure out the dynamics of how we release them. Do they hit all the taprooms at the same time? Are they only at Bernalillo first and then they hit the taprooms? We have some logistics to work out on that still. We’ll make sure to communicate that clearly on social media for everyone.”

Clearly, Bosque employs some folks who do not share our fear of heights.

Overall, Bosque North is an impressive creation in all aspects. It is just another sign of how far our local craft beer industry has come in just the past six years. The days of jamming tiny brewing systems into strip malls and hoping for the best have come and gone. The bar has been raised and will continue to be raised, which is good news for all of us that love craft beer.

Here are some additional pictures from Wednesday night’s industry-only invite opening for a final look before the public gets to join us.

The interior of the downstairs taproom. There’s a second bar to the right of frame.

A whole lotta brewery folks gathered on the second floor patio/deck.

Good night, Bosque North. We will see you again soon!

Once again, it is a very good time to be a fan of local craft beer in New Mexico. Thanks to Gabe, Jotham, Jessica, and John for everything.

See some of you at the NMIPAC on Saturday.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Find your way to Innovation Way, the home of Bosque’s new offices and warehouse.

Last month, Bosque Brewing sent out a short press release about moving its offices to a new location in Rio Rancho. It seemed surprising that the brewery’s ownership would make such a move, especially with Bosque North in Bernalillo still unopened. After finally being able to work out a time to meet (never easy with all of our busy schedules), I ventured over to 7701 Innovation Way NE to see the new space, learn why the move was made, and also catch up on everything else Bosque related.

The trio of managing director Gabe Jensen, director of operations Jotham Michnovicz, and director of culture and engagement Jessica Griego greeted me in a second floor conference room. Yeah, they have a conference room. Yeah, they have two floors. It’s quite different than the crowded, fully open space they had at the San Mateo location (we would always meet in the taproom due to a lack of space).

This conference room was filled with the new Bosque North employees during their recent orientation.

“I’ll take you back a little bit,” Gabe said. “Bernalillo has taken much longer than anything I’d ever want something to take. When we designed the office over there, it had seven offices and a conference room, plus a little fore room, and we were like how would we ever need that much space.

“About a year ago, we said we’re gonna need more space than that pretty soon after we open. I looked at some office warehouse type of places out here. Bernalillo is large and tall, which is great for production, but it’s kind of an expensive space and we don’t want to add more to just store things like empty cans and boxes. All the storage things that if you’re in an industrial area paying industrial prices you can afford.”

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You gotta put all those unopened growlers somewhere.

The combination of the need for an off-site warehouse and the growth of the office staff sent Gabe on a mission to find a nearby space that could handle both.

“I found plenty out in Northern Rio Rancho and Bernalillo like a year ago,” he said. “I thought there’s no reason to get it now. When we got closer (to North opening), there was nothing, which is good for the economy and everything, but there was nothing left for us. I was thinking a 6,000- or 7,000-square-foot office warehouse and probably not in great shape, just to throw some stuff in and have some sales offices and distro offices and stuff like that. That didn’t work. Once we got close to opening Bernalillo, we contemplated stuffing everyone in there and also keeping our offices (at San Mateo), that big open mess.”

Space, glorious space!

Gabe’s business connections, however, gave him a heads up that there was a building available.

“Kind of on a whim, I came out and looked at this place,” he said. “Some economic development people had told us about it. This had been vacant for about three years. We got a good deal. There’s more to that story as well, just relationships and things like that, but we were able to (close on it). Anytime I showed anybody this place, and that includes all of us, Jess and I walked out of here and thought no, it’s silly, we couldn’t do this.

“But, when I did the math, it made sense. The math still worked out, especially considering there’s 8,000 square feet of warehouse here, which makes storing cans (easy); it’s only a mile away from Bernalillo. That sounds like a long time, but it happened (fast). Three days and a week later and we had a lease. We’ve never pulled that off.”

Bosque now has a building in which to grow. There are some additional offices that will eventually be leased out to other small businesses on the south end of the building.

“If we can get the other side leased, which we plan to do, our actual monthly expense is going to be the same (as San Mateo),” Gabe said.

The north (right) half of the building is all for Bosque.

At first glance, the building almost seems too big. After a post-interview tour, I could already see where the staff still has room to expand in the future.

“This size of a building that we’re in, we need this much space,” Gabe said. “We have 18 people housed here. I can already feel a difference in the efficiency of people. I can close my door and bang something out instead of having to navigate all working in the same open space. I didn’t have a desk in the end. Well, I finally did once John (Bullard) was at Bernalillo all the time, I stole his. I think at the end of being at our offices on San Mateo, we had six people sitting around a single table. That’s not efficient.”

No one is going to particularly miss the old San Mateo office, which was always being squeezed by storage demands.

“I’m usually pretty sentimental about things and I was so happy to move out of that place,” Jessica said. “I was not sad at all. It was getting really inefficient with everyone sitting on top of each other. Not having a door to have (private) conversations, all of the things.”

The pink boots are a nice touch in Jessica’s office.

Our conversation took us to the impending opening of Bosque North and all that will entail. We will have more on that in a separate story, with new photos of the finished space, later this week.

As for some of Bosque’s other upcoming projects, those have been on the back burner until North was completed. Now the staff will begin moving those along as well.

“We can say Restoration Pizza will happen first,” Jessica said. “I think once we get Bernalillo open we’ll be able to dive into and start kickstarting these projects off.”

The replacement for the San Mateo taproom/brewery will follow soon after.

The warehouse space in the back is already filling up with kegs, cans, and more.

“Open Space, we could go pull the permit right now and get started, but we’re working on financing for that one,” Jotham said. “It’s all of the pre-construction stuff that is going on. We hope to really hit the ground running right after we open Bernalillo (on) both of those projects. It’s just that Open Space is going to be a longer build. It’s a seven-month construction timeline that we’ve put together. Restoration Pizza should be way faster than that, because it’s just a buildout of an existing space. That one won’t be as crazy.”

Even after those projects are done, do not expect Bosque to kick back and take it easy.

“We actually have been really strategically planning the next three-to-five years,” Jessica said. “We have goals and things we want to do, but nothing is set in stone yet.”

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Gabe and Jessica are quite proud of the new space. And yes, they have an employee bar back there, because of course they do.

Look for more on Bosque North in a couple days. Thanks to Gabe, Jotham, and Jessica for the interview and the tour.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Bombs Away’s Cathy Racow is not your typical brewing intern.

Retirement is one of those concepts that does not appeal to everyone that reaches that point in life. Sure, some folks are happy to kick back and relax, or travel, or engage in small hobbies to stay busy.

Others, like Cathy Racow, would simply go mad if she were to idle away in retirement. That is the basis of how a nearly 60-year-old former nurse and paramedic ended up interning for the summer at Bombs Away Beer Company.

“I truly believe she will be a future star in the industry,” wrote Bombs Away head brewer David Kimbell when he pitched the idea of a story on Cathy.

Meeting Cathy in person one morning at the brewery, it was quickly apparent that she has more energy and enthusiasm than most brewers half her age.

“Number one, I love beer, like all my life since I was 14,” she said with a laugh. “Number two, I’m retired from public service and it’s absolutely time for me to have a beer. I’m not a stay-at-home kind of person. I enjoy work and I’m not afraid of hard work, which brewing is hard work. If you like to be cold, wet, and smell, this is the perfect career.”

Cathy was a firefighter paramedic and emergency room nurse, and she retired from her career in medicine after many years of selfless service.

“I’ve never had an easy job,” she said. “I’ve always been active.”

With that in mind, Cathy said she started looking for something else to do to remain active. She found out about the brewing program at Central New Mexico Community College and signed up, much to the surprise of her husband and grown children.

“I really love the brewing side,” Cathy said. “I really enjoy the icky part, the science. There is enough science and technology to keep me interested for the rest of my life. It’s also an interactive job, it’s not on a computer. I do better with my hands than with my brain. I don’t like sitting still so much.”

Cathy now has one year of studying and hands-on work under her belt.

“I already have a degree so I’m really more interested in the brewing certificate than an actual AA,” she said. “The CNM program is fantastic, it really is. It’s pretty intense. So what I did, I only have my draft line classes left, but I knew I wasn’t busy this summer, so I wanted to do this internship when I didn’t have classes.”

A previous internship up in Santa Fe helped Cathy land a spot at Bombs Away for the summer.

“I did a short-term internship during school with John Rowley and Rowley Farmhouse (Ales),” she said. “I wanted to work pretty much all summer. I asked my instructor, drafted some ideas, and sort of begged here. David has a really squared away approach to brewing. He’s a real professional brewer. He knows pretty much everyone in town. And he was willing. He’s also going to be an adjunct instructor at CNM in the fall, he’s going to teach the technology class.”

Oh, in case anyone has not been by in a while, Bombs Away is also getting a patio!

Bombs Away was also the perfect setup for a good learning environment, Cathy said.

“I didn’t want to intern at a production brewery right off,” she said. “I’m interested in learning all the aspects. This pub, it’s like my dream size production. It’s a community pub, not (Marble). But that’s cool, they’ve hired five graduates. Marble has been very supportive.”

Cathy noted that CNM graduates are also employed at Bow & Arrow, La Cumbre, Rio Bravo, and Turtle Mountain.

“We’re trying to give people the idea that yeah, you can adopt a CNM student, they’ll try really hard for you, and we are available for adoption,” she said. “I was kind of hoping, too, that after an internship, I would be more helpful as a rookie at a brewery than not.”

The biggest challenge Cathy has faced working at a brewery has been the same she faced in the classroom.

“The more challenging thing is getting definitive answers on some of the mathematical problems, because everybody has a different way to approach it, or a different system,” she said. “Some are more empirical, especially with yeast production. Calculating out gravities and malt bills and stuff, that’s not easy, but people pretty much agree on that. But, as far as yeast propagation (that) is probably my biggest thing. I was really interested in quality assurance, microbes, because of my (medical) background. I went to a seminar at (Colorado State) this summer. That really cleared up a lot of my questions.”

At an age when most people are looking forward to the end of their careers, Cathy said she is happy to be back at the bottom of the ladder.

“I’m a complete rookie (and) I’m OK with being a rookie,” she said. “I’ve been a rookie at everything all my life. That’s part of life, you always progress. I’ve never had a problem being back in that role. I really want to keep going to CNM. They’re a legit little college. Complete, complete support.”

Working at Bombs Away has also been a positive.

“That’s why I love this, this is about bringing community (together) and enjoying yourself,” Cathy said. “Especially pubs like this, they’re not shady. It really is a community pub. People come from Sandia Labs and Kirtland, they enjoy themselves, have a couple beers, and head home.”

New Mexico has truly become home for Cathy and her family, she said.

“This is the second time I’ve lived in New Mexico,” Cathy said. “I fell in love with it the first time. Finally my husband retired and we came back. I love this area, I know it sounds crazy, this is a crazy place, but I enjoy it a lot. Albuquerque is for real, people here are real.”

We wish Cathy, and all of the talented CNM brewing students, the best of luck now and in the future. And, let this be a lesson, that age means nothing when it comes to having a passion to brew.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The future home of Restoration Pizza by Bosque Brewing, across the parking lot from Cabela’s.

While doing a weekly perusal of pending small brewer licenses, the Crew stumbled upon a new one that threw us off for a minute. Restoration Pizza by Bosque Brewing was a new addition, but also one we had heard nothing about. After contacting the Bosque staff, they were also a bit surprised.

That was due to a switch in the licensing with the State of New Mexico.

“I got a phone call on Thursday saying they received it, but they couldn’t accept it,” managing director Gabe Jensen said. “Then you email me on Sunday. How in the world did that happen?”

Well, the State is slow to change things on its website, but the point is that this new project is still happening, with only a change to where it will be one of the three potential new taprooms to come out of the Bosque North production facility in Bernalillo. No matter the license, the point of Restoration Pizza is to offer up something new, but with a distinct Bosque flavor.

“The long and short of it, it’s a simple pizza, salad, and beer joint, that’s it,” Gabe said. “(But) the concept is different than what we’ve always done.”

The difference will be in the employees. Restoration Pizza will have 50 to 70 percent of its staff made up of people with physical and mental disabilities. The restaurant will be located at the Legacy at Journal Center complex off Jefferson that is anchored by Cabela’s. The 3,400-square foot space will be inside the building on the east side of the property.

Gabe said the idea was born out of a series of conversations with one of his friends, Nathan Winham.

“He had a program in Arkansas where he did work programs for individuals with (cerebral palsy), Down’s Syndrome, autism, and we were talking about him starting up another one here in New Mexico,” Gabe said. “He was lamenting on how hard it is; you have to get grants (and) it’s going to take a long time. After a few conversations with him, and then conversations with Jess and Jotham and John, we were like can we just do this without all the red tape. Can we make a program, a concept that works with that?”

Along with Bosque director of culture and engagement Jess Griego, director of operations Jotham Michnovicz, and brewmaster John Bullard, Gabe and David came up with a plan.

“When we announced it internally, I think the mantra was making things better,” Jotham said. “That’s one of the things we really want to do in New Mexico and lives in general is just make things better. We’re trying to create a cooperative environment that allows people competitive and fair wages, when that would not necessarily be an opportunity under other circumstances. The dignity of human life is a big deal to us. That’s one of the things we’re striving for in all capacities, whether it’s a co-worker or a customer.”

Jess added that it fits the Bosque model of engaging with the community.

“We really want to create a environment that’s going to enhance the lives of our co-workers, all these new co-workers as well, (and) create a community around this Restoration Pizza that kind of engages the community more and makes an impact,” she said. “We’re always looking for those opportunities internally. And then, to have this new branch of our company that’s going to hopefully provide that even more for a wider range of people with different abilities is really exciting to us. It’s a lot of gray areas and unknowns that we need to sort out still, but I think overall usually our mission is to make things better, to engage our community, to outdo ourselves. This opportunity, I think, is going to be a shining example.”

The plan is to have Restoration Pizza open before the end of 2018. Bosque will also be working with Adelante Development Center, a local non-profit that works with differently abled persons.

It will only be the latest in a seemingly never-ending series of projects for the Bosque staff, who continue to push the company forward. The Bernalillo facility is nearly finished, though no exact opening date has been set, while ground should be broken soon on the Open Space project along the Interstate 25 frontage road, which will replace the current San Mateo brewery and taproom. After all that is completed? Oh, we expect Bosque is far from done.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Somebody has a new home on Candelaria, not far from La Cumbre!

For anyone that was still unaware, Southwest Grape and Grain has moved to a new home at 3401 Candelaria Blvd NE on the north side of the street just west of Carlisle. As the Crew’s main home brewer at this point, I, Franz Solo, headed over to meet with owner Donavan Lane to get a tour of the new space, and gain some sense of what he has planned going forward. We first took a look at the main sales floor.

Donavan: Kind of the same setup as before, a little bit more space up here. It is amazing how much of a difference a few hundred square feet makes. I mean, we had maybe only 400 square feet of additional space in the showroom area compared to the old location, but it makes a huge difference. 

Solo: That it does, because you actually have space around the counter. You’ve got easy access to all of the different sections which are all easier to see. A definite improvement to the shopping experience, in my opinion. 

Space, glorious space!

Donavan: Yeah, this will allow us to look at maybe some other products to bring in, and we have more than enough floor space where if we need to add in another shelf or two we can definitely do that. So we will be looking at that in the next couple of months, some other possible products to carry. 

The grain room is pretty much the same setup we had at the other shop.

Solo: But it’s just so nice and open and …

Donavan: Visible?

Solo: Yeah, visible, it’s not tucked around the corner in the back.

Donavan: Especially for our existing customer base who have been brewing for a long time and coming to us, they knew to go down the hall at the old shop and the grain room is right there. But, for new customers they would walk in and they would never even know this was part of the store, and just having the display bins with all of the different malts it’s just cool looking. So when we designed the space I knew I wanted windows, I wanted this to be visible. The nice thing is that this is kind of a focal point of the store now which is great. 

Southwest Grape and Grain now has a dedicated classroom space.

As some of you may remember from brewing classes offered at the old location, they were held kind of in the middle of everything. I’m glad to say that Grape and Grain now has a dedicated classroom area off of the main floor. We talked a little bit about plans for this space now and in the future.

Donavan: So since we have this space designated as a classroom, I mean we are looking to expand our offering of classes, try to team up with more people on that. I’ve been talking to Brian (Langwell, of Left Turn Distillery) for probably an entire year that we ought to set up a distilling class and things like that. I have a friend who does one of those paint and wine class things, so we will probably look at setting up and doing those here. 

Solo: I mean it is a great space for it.

Donavan: Any other classes we can offer to utilize this space will be something we have in mind. 

The future brewing room and growler fill stations are in the back corner.

New and forthcoming additions to the shop will include a growler-filling station and dedicated brewing area for brewing on site, which is awesome all around.

Donavan: We have our walk-in cooler and our growler-fill station, the intent of it kind of is to brew a few of our own beers, which we will put on tap more as demonstrations than anything. The idea being that if you want to make an IPA or something, here’s one on tap and here are all of the ingredients in a box kind of a thing.

Solo: Yeah, make it and see how yours turns out and then you can learn something and have fun doing it.

Donavan: We eventually plan on putting 20 taps of all of the different local breweries. If a customer wants a pint while they are shopping, that’s great. Overall, however, the focus will be on growler fills, get your homebrew ingredients, get your local beer, and take it home to enjoy while you are brewing. 

This will eventually be our brewing room once we get it finished out the rest of the way. I still have a little 2-barrel system that I had at Broken Bottle, so we are going to set it up and then bring in a few small 1-barrel fermenters and start offering brew on premises. We are looking to do collaborations with Worthogs, Dukes of Ale, with you guys, and so on. Ariel (Figueroa, of Worthogs and a good friend of ours) and I have talked about maybe doing another Battle of the Beer Geeks type of thing, doing another little kind of twist on that with all of the different beer-related clubs in town. 

Make sure to get some reading materials.

Solo: Sounds great to me, the more brewing the better. 

Donavan: We are still waiting, though. We haven’t yet officially submitted our (small brewer) license yet. I’ve got it almost completely done, but the last couple of months with trying to finish up the remodel here and plan the move and everything. 

Solo: Yeah, you’ve had enough on your plate. 

Donavan: It finally just got to the point where I was trying to get it done in the evenings and stuff. Eventually, I had to just put it on the back burner for the time being, get the move done and then finalize it when everything else was all done. Hopefully sooner rather than later we will get it all taken care of and be able to start utilizing this brewing space and get the growler station going.

Solo: It’ll be fun for sure. It’s cool seeing this coming to reality having talked to you, what was it, over a year ago?

Donavan: Yeah, when I bought the shop from Kevin (Davis). It took a lot of planning and between finding the right building and getting a landlord that was willing to work with you and all of the different stuff involved there. But yeah, it’s finally done. Well, mostly done. 

The hops and yeast fridges made their way to the new location.

Solo: You have all of the main stuff tackled.

Donavan: The rest of the stuff is pretty much kind of the same. We tried to keep the same sort of layout and flow of it as close as we could to the other shop. You’ve got your hop fridge, your yeast fridge, your DME and LME, and all of that stuff together, your equipment and kits and stuff all together. So that it is the best possible flow we could create for the layout at this point. Of course, as time goes on we will refine placement of items and such, but the basic idea is already in place. 

The other longer-term thing is that when we get our brewer’s license, we had it put in the lease (that) this outdoor space is ours to utilize. So we are going to put a few chairs and tables out here in this little patio space where you will be able to sit out(side) and have a beer if you want to. Saturday at the grand opening for national homebrew day we had everyone out here where it was the perfect space for everyone to set up and do their brewing demos. Our focus isn’t to try to be a brewery or a taproom or a bar, but to try to bring a little bit of that into the shop is what we had in mind, something of the whole beer experience in one place. If La Cumbre is packed on a weekend and you were on your bike, you can just come over and have a beer here, or once people know that we are doing this you can come down and get three different growlers from three different breweries all in one place. 

Solo: Don’t have to drive all around town to get multiple fills which is quite convenient. Awesome. 

Donavan: It’s been a long couple of months, but it’s mostly all done.

Solo: Hey, you’ve got it man, you’re here.

The grain room is so much more open now.

So for all of you homebrewers out there, head over to the relocated Southwest Grape and Grain and check it out for all of your brewing needs. We will keep you posted as well with any updates to the brewer license/growler station as they come our way.

Until next time, I bid you happy brewing and Skål!

— Franz Solo

Who wouldn’t be smiling after taking over as a head brewer?

A few months ago, the Crew was surprised to see an advertisement for a head brewer position at Red Door Brewing. We were less surprised by the identity of the person who eventually earned the right to succeed founding brewer Wayne Martinez.

Matt Meier, formerly of La Cumbre and Marble, has taken the reins at Red Door after crossing off every box on the checklist of owner Matt Biggs.

“We solicited resumes from a ton of people, a lot of them from out of state,” Biggs said. “I think for us, it was really nice to be able to hire in state and preferable, because we know the quality of beer inside New Mexico and we don’t necessarily know the quality of beer outside of New Mexico, which can be hit or miss. When we look at people trained by certain breweries, we have no idea what (quality) that brewery was.

“We got a (lot) of resumes from people locally, and we narrowed it down to a few people, and at the end of the day in terms of experience and kind of personality and all the different factors, we had a really tough time making the decision when we started interviewing New Mexicans. We just felt Matt fit the bill of what we’re looking for, which is somebody that’s ready to take that next step (and) really excited about doing that, also. I’m pretty happy that we did that so far.”

For Matt Meier, the chance to take charge of his own brewhouse was too good to pass up.

“For me, I saw it as kind of like when you’re shopping for a house,” Meier said. “It’s got good bones. I want to put my twist on it. It’s got a good group of regulars. It’s got its two other taprooms. It’s ready to blast off. It just needs something to stand apart, to make it separate. In this town, there’ s a brewery every quarter of a mile it seems. I want to give people a reason. It’s easy to pass us on the way to La Cumbre. I want people to peek in the parking lot to see cars, (say) oh, man, something is happening over there. I want this place to, like I said, just start popping up on people’s radars.”

Matt Meier, left, handled his first Crew interview with aplomb.

Meier started his brewing career on the other side of the country.

“Before we moved out here, my wife and I, she landed a job at UNM, we were in South Carolina,” he said. “I brewed at a 3-barrel brewhouse called Conquest, and that’s in Columbia. That’s where I cut my teeth brewing. Before that, I was a lowly bottle line guy at Thomas Creek Brewing in Greenville. I’ve been in the industry for seven years, but only brewing in Albuquerque for two.”

Meier said he learned a lot in those two years, mainly from one brewmaster in particular.

“When I first moved here two years ago, I got a job at Marble. I was working up at the Heights with (Josh) Trujillo. He was probably the greatest influence on my brewing that I could ever ask for, he’s like frickin’ Yoda. He is, he’s like a brewer Yoda. I learned so much under that guy, and I will forever be indebted to him.

“That led me to getting a job at La Cumbre, and that was my most recent place, shift brewing for them. When this came open, I jumped at it. I finally got a place where I can stretch out my creativity and put my spin on some beers. That was my Albuquerque brewing experience.”

Meier is certainly not the first new head brewer to spring up from the ranks at the two biggest breweries in town. Kaylynn McKnight (Toltec/Nexus) and David Kimbell (Bombs Away) both cut their teeth at La Cumbre, while Mick Hahn (Turtle Mountain) and Andrew Krosche (Kellys/Chama River) got their brewing starts at Marble.

Matt tells us all about his New England IPA (full haze was not yet in effect when we visited).

During his time in Albuquerque, Meier said he learned what the local craft beer-loving crowd likes.

“Oh, hops,” he said. “As long as we can afford it, I’ll give it to them. Hops are expensive. I was lucky enough that the owner here, Matt Biggs, kind of let the leash off me on my first beer so I could spend a little bit on some hops and different yeast. I’ll throw hops at a few beers every now and again. It’s not sustainable to do it every beer, I wish I could.”

That first beer was the New England IPA that debuted Friday. Franz Solo went ahead and reviewed that beer for us already, and if our resident chief hophead liked it, it should be a popular beer with most folks around town.

“That’s my first special that they let me write, that I could actually fit my beer into the schedule,” Meier said. “That has Mosaic, Citra, and El Dorado. Now I’ve got a good portion of all those great hops in the back. Future beers will be designed around them. Getting rid of those hops is a tough, tough task.”

Meier was smiling when he said that last line. He was still smiling when he went over the other beers he has on the schedule.

“The next special I’m brewing (is) an English-style IPA, it’s a little toned down, a little malty, English malt, English hops,” Meier said. “It’s sessionable, well, my definition of sessionable. It’s still above 5 percent. That came from inspiration from our (distribution) guy, David Garcia. Him and I were talking and he’s really been looking for a good English IPA around (town). I’ve got the yeast for it coming off this New England IPA, let’s do an English IPA. After that, I’m going to keep that yeast strain going, do an ESB.”

Fans of some of the most popular past seasonals at Red Door need not panic that those beers are all going by the wayside.

“I’ve got plans to bring back the Blackberry Hefeweizen that was popular last summer here,” Meier said. “So yeah, I am going to listen to what the regulars want, what the employees said sold (in the past). I’m not trying to rock the boat too much. That will be out probably right around Albuquerque Beer Week.

“I’ve (also) got a Berliner Weisse and a pilsner planned. That probably covers the next two months of specials. Then we’ll see what so far I’ve made, what the feedback is, and if the people want me to bring back New England (or) bring back English.”

It is a rare thing indeed to get three Crew members in on one interview. The power of the beer, and actual free time, compelled us.

To brew all those new beers, while also keeping the year-round beers in good supply, Meier said he will need some new equipment.

“It’s funny you mention that, we are ordering a new hot liquor tank,” he said. “We currently do not have one. We have an empty 30-barrel fermenter that I heat up all my hot water in the kettle. I mash in from the kettle, fill it up, heat it, and send it over to the fermenter for my sparge water. Then send it back over top while I’m sparging. That’s not sustainable, that’s not going to work forever. Right now I can only do one batch of beer a day. We’ve got a 7-barrel brewhouse and 15-barrel fermenters, so I have to brew twice to fill them. It’s just time consuming.”

Meier made a list of everything else the brewery needs to move forward.

“First order of business, I gave Matt Biggs an inventory of what I think we can use,” he said. “It kind of goes with his thoughts of let’s grow. He wants this taproom filled, he wants distro to be able to step it up. Right now we have the reins on distro because we have to keep up with the taprooms. I don’t want to ever hold back from selling more beer.”

Another major benefit of having the hot liquor tank will be to free up that 30-barrel fermenter, which is the biggest tank in the brewery.

“(Once) we’ve got that hot liquor tank, we’re going to be filling up that 30-barrel vessel that has been a holding tank,” Meier said. “We’ll get that moved out, get the glycol hooked up, and I’ve asked Matt to purchase a 30-barrel bright. Then we’ll brew into that full-time. Then I’ll only have to brew IPA once a month. That frees up a fermenter every two or three weeks for another special.”

As anyone working in a brewery knows, there is no sense in putting an exact timetable on the arrival of the equipment, but it should be sooner than later.

“Right now, we’re at the mercy of tank manufacturers and their backlog of orders,” Meier said. “Once we get that hot liquor tank and bright in here, we’ll get rocking and rolling.”

Red Door will also be increasing its supply of kegs.

“Every day we find ourselves cleaning six to 10 kegs just to make sure tomorrow’s kegs get full,” Meier said. “I want to make sure that we’re not depending on collecting empty kegs to fill orders for tomorrow. We want to have a little bit of a backlog of kegs and that will open up things for distro.”

Franz Solo went back and got the New England IPA to take home.

An ideal outlook for the future at Red Door would see more growth, possibly beyond the city limits, Meier said. That will all depend on finances, of course.

“I would love to see it grow into production,” Meier said. “If we can prove in town that this is a brand people respect and will continue to visit, then it’s worth taking it outside of Albuquerque. Which, without money being an issue, (means we) get a bigger brewhouse. Then we get rid of the 15-barrel fermenters and brights; then we get 30s. Baby steps, we’ll get there.

“I would love that to be the vision of this brewery, just to keep growing it. It’s in a good spot right now with its three taprooms and this core brewery, but growing into other markets, growing this Albuquerque market, trying to grow our pie share, we’ll see what happens.”

If everything goes right and Red Door eventually outgrows its space on Candelaria, Meier said he has a plan for that as well.

“We’ve got plenty of room to grow for this facility, by no means are we talking about a new building at this point,” he said, before adding with a laugh, “But hey, if it comes to it and money is not an issue, we’ll build a huge Bernalillo brewery right next to Bosque.”

All of us in the Crew are looking forward to what the two Matts can do with Red Door going forward. The New England IPA is a great start. Head on over to any of the three locations and let us know what you think.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

It’s like playing Where’s Waldo with your favorite brewery staff members. Thanks to all of them for their hard work and dedication to the craft! (Photo courtesy of Marble Brewery)

Marble brewmaster Josh Trujillo was having a normal day at the Heights taproom when I dropped by last week to ask him one question.

What does 10 years of Marble mean to you?

“Man, I think that’s the toughest question you’ve ever asked me,” he replied, which is saying something, considering that I have been asking tough questions of Josh since, oh, 2013.

After taking a minute to compose his thoughts, he offered up a rather elegant answer.

“I think 10 years to me is progress, a lot of gained knowledge,” Josh said. “I think the most important thing for my 10-year tenure, coming up on 10 years, is all the people that I’ve gotten to work with and have been coached by and have also been able to coach along. To see them progress within the company, and outside the company, and watch the industry change, and watch the company change, and watch myself change, is probably the biggest thing for me. It’s to see not only the company’s progress, but the progress that I’ve made within the industry and the company coming from having no brewing experience at all, a construction background, to working for a world-class, reputable brewery, and having a really good part in helping the company achieve that.”

Josh is the second-longest-tenured employee at Marble, having been there 9 1/2 years now. An Albuquerque native and graduate of Valley High School, he left the construction business behind in 2008 to join Marble in its infancy, though he had to work his way up from cleaning the brewery to eventually making the beer.

“I still sweep floors, too, man,” he said. “I started sweeping floors, I swept the floors today, scrubbed some floors, there’s some things that haven’t changed. A lot of things have and I’m still happy to do those things. That’s still progress. I pride myself on the cleanliness, the organization, and the flow of the Heights brewery here. I try to translate that not only through the rest of the company, but the rest of the industry.”

Josh has certainly had an impact on the industry, introducing a wide array of beer styles to customers and colleagues as well. His most recent shining moment was winning a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival for Cholo Stout this past October.

Josh Trujillo, looking resplendent at GABF last autumn.

“It’s just incredible to be part of that, and to be one of the leaders within that range, it’s a great feeling,” Josh said. “It brings me a lot of pride to know where I’ve come from, and where I’ve gone, and where there still is to go. There’s still a long road ahead of us. The industry certainly doesn’t seem to be stagnating at all. We’re making beers like Kentucky Juleps. Ground-breaking, innovative styles, not only for us but for the whole scene. I think, you know, I’m really proud of what I’ve learned about myself in the last 10 years within a different industry and what I’ve learned about other people.

“That’s what 10 years of Marble means to me is the people, the progression of the people, and my role in that progression.”

Before the rest of the Marble command staff got bogged down in preparations for Saturday’s huge 10th anniversary bash downtown, I asked some of them the same question. For those who know them personally, their answers likely won’t come as a surprise; for those who don’t, here is a little more insight into the wonderful people who keep Albuquerque’s biggest brewery rolling along.

“The word Marbleous comes to mind. Actually, growth, a lot of growth, a lot of change. Just in the four years that I’ve been working here, not counting the 10 (that) I’ve been coming here drinking beer, just seeing the expansion and the footprint that has grown and the taproom, it’s just insane. The Marble family has grown, doubled in size in just maybe the last three years. It’s pretty phenomenal. I think growth is the biggest thing. It’s just crazy.”

— Leah Black, P.R. and social media coordinator, four years with Marble

“I think one of the biggest things is they’re not satisfied being just another brewery in Albuquerque. They realize to stay relevant, you have to keep moving forward.”

— Patrick Cavanaugh, beertender extraordinaire, seven years

“It means 10 years of amazing people coming together with a unified vision to create quality beer and a experience that accurately reflects the beauty and potential of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and its people.”

— Barbie Gonzalez, director of tap room operations, five years

“It’s a big milestone. I’ve been here for seven years. It’s kind of incredible to see how things have changed. I can’t even imagine what Marble will be like in (another) 10 years. I don’t have anything that inspirational or grandiose to say. I love this place. I’m here more than my own home. That’s what it means to me, it’s my home.”

— Nate Jackson, packaging line director, seven years

“Marble turning 10, first of all, means that we’re going to have a big, giant celebration and we’re going to have a bunch of fun. Secondly, it means that we are doing such good things in the community, we’re only growing and getting bigger and better ever year. Ten years is such an accomplishment. It just shows that we are not going anywhere.”

— Tammy Lovato, off-site event and festival coordinator, two years

“Love. We put love into everything we do. From our delicious beer, our amazing events, and our beautiful tap rooms. It’s clear to see that we care about our craft and sharing it with the community is what drives us to keep excelling. We set a standard for what people expect from craft breweries in New Mexico. We couldn’t do that if we didn’t LOVE Marble.”

— Geraldine Lucero, marketing and events coordinator, two years

“It means that I have one of the best jobs in town, working for one of the best companies in town. It doesn’t feel like work. It feels like working for a company that’s going in the right direction. It’s a good place for the community, it’s a good place to hang out, work, and obviously making it 10 years, it’s still rocking after 10 years. We’re still crushing it in year 10.”

— Xavier Romero, brand ambassador, five years

And, of course, the boss wanted to weigh in on this question as well.

“Ten years means that we’ve grown a little bit, but we’re still so young. Look how far we’ve come in those 10 years. We’re up to 130 employees now, three locations, two breweries, numerous accolades between GABF and the World Beer Cup, and we’re still having a great time, pushing boundaries, and doing what we love. Think about where we’ll be in 20 years.”

— Ted Rice, president and founding brewmaster, 10 years

Cheers to Geraldine, left, Barbie, Josh, and all the Marble staffers not pictured here.

A huge thanks to everyone at Marble for taking the time to answer what proved to be a tougher question than I expected it to be for them. Enjoy the party this weekend, everyone. You have all earned it.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Marble, you have truly come a long way since 2008. (All photos courtesy of John Gozigian unless noted.)

The Albuquerque craft brewing scene of early 2008 was barely a scene at all. A series of closures in the years prior had left just three operational breweries within the city limits — Chama River, Il Vicino, Kellys — plus two in nearby suburbs, Tractor in Los Lunas and Turtle Mountain in Rio Rancho. There were only two breweries regularly packaging and distributing beers in the state, Santa Fe Brewing and Sierra Blanca in Moriarty, which had just bought out Albuquerque’s Rio Grande Brewing a year earlier.

Then, on April 23, hundreds of people lined up outside a revamped warehouse at the corner of Marble Avenue and First Street. It was a brewery unlike any other in the state. It packaged in the back, but also sold beer on tap out front. There was no kitchen to be found. It was just beer, a concept that no one had done on a large scale in New Mexico up to that point.

Marble Brewery was born, and so was the current craft beer scene in Albuquerque, and really New Mexico as a whole.

President and founding brewmaster Ted Rice sat down with me last week to once again recap the history of his brewery as it prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary this week.

Back in 2008, Ted had come from Chama River, which he had transformed from just another brewpub into an award-winning operation. Along with his original partners, John Gozigian and Jeff Jinnett, he set out to start a new brewery that left the brewpub model behind.

“I vividly remember the day we went shopping for buildings to open this new brewery that we knew would be 100-percent beer-focused, no restaurant,” Ted said. “The building on 111 Marble Avenue was the last one we looked at. We said this was perfect in regards to proximity to downtown, availability of parking, and inside it was already kind of split up in a way that one-third of it was (the future) pub and two-thirds was production.”

Inside the brewery in 2008. It’s changed just a bit since then.

John and Jeff named it Marble Brewery after the street outside, Ted said. From there, he and Daniel Jaramillo (now of La Cumbre) got to work transforming the empty warehouse into a workable space for making beer.

“When I looked at the space, it was about 5,000 square feet for brewing,” Ted said. “Coming from Chama, where I was producing 1,600 barrels a year annually, brewing about 5,000 barrels in 5,000 square feet, it seemed like plenty of beer in plenty of space to do it in. We ended up selling 5,000 barrels in our first full calendar year. From there, it was just a matter of fitting as much equipment into this space as we could. Eventually that led to our little fermentation penitentiary outdoors.”

Ted said the equipment, everything from the forklift to the bottling line to the brewhouse, came from a defunct brewery in South Bend, Indiana. It was loaded onto trucks and shipped west. (For those who are curious, the original brewhouse is still in operation at Smog City Brewing in Torrance, California.)

“I don’t think I ever set up a brewery from start to finish before,” Ted said. “I’d worked in maybe three or four other breweries and toured numerous (others). I’d never built one from the ground up. This space evolved over time as we put in new equipment, but for the most part the foundation has named the same. It didn’t really seem all that hard to put together.

“Daniel Jaramillo and I cranked out the first batches to get us open. I’ll never forget that reception on opening day. We were just packed to the gills from the get-go. That let us know that this town was yearning and craving for more beer, new beer, and a new fun space to enjoy it.”

Look at those two youngsters back in the day!

A big inspiration for Marble was the old Chama River Microbar downtown on Second Street behind the Sunshine Theater.

“It was a different model, for sure,” Ted said. “I’m not saying that we invented it. Nobody in town was focused on production and consumption. We saw the success of the Microbar on Second Street. It was just a 400-square foot box that sold beer. So we’re like, let’s have a brewery that’s eventually going to bottle, can, and keg, and a place where people can come sample the beers. I think it was maybe (not) originally thought of as a pub, (but) maybe where people would sample and have one beer and then grab some package beer to go. It evolved into a community beer appreciation hub.”

The idea that people would show up en masse and just enjoy beer with no food was revolutionary for New Mexico. Numerous other breweries would eventually follow that model, starting with La Cumbre in December 2010. Others would stick to the brewpub model, though often with a twist like Nexus in May 2011. The point is that Marble was the brewery that showed how much Albuquerque wanted good craft breweries. That boom has yet to ebb, with 30 breweries now in operation within the city limits, another half-dozen in the suburbs, and many more in the planning stages.

“I think the state and nation on a whole was getting (ready), because you saw it across the nation that a lot of breweries opened just after we did, but I definitely feel as though our success (here) inspired and created a lot of momentum for people to follow a single model,” Ted said, “and have the confidence that the communities and beer-drinking public were ready for beer-focused operations that embraced patrons from noon to midnight.”

Those old wood floors were part of the character in the original pub space.

It was not always the smoothest evolution from the grassroots start to the massive operation that Marble has become. There were taprooms that worked (Westside) and those that did not (Santa Fe). The revamped logo and imagery, from the old colored marbles to the maverick, was met with mixed responses when it debuted in early 2014. Then there was the fact that Marble outgrew its original footprint in record time.

“There was a point where the tanks were so close to the brewhouse, you couldn’t fit a scissor lift in there, you had to watch your head,” Ted said.

The massive downtown expansion, which eventually included an expanded patio, the rooftop deck, and of course the towering fermentation hall, greatly eased a lot of the crush for the staff and customers. The addition of the second brewery, the MavLab, inside the Heights taproom in 2016 also freed up the downtown brew team to focus on the core beers for packaging, while brewmaster Josh Trujillo got to play mad scientist again and keep the on-tap variety fresh and funky.

“I always forget, there were many pints in between then and now, but I knew when we first opened that IPA would be number one from my experience here in town,” Ted said. “We had some of our other offerings like the Oatmeal Stout and an Amber. It was at Stan Hieronymous’ suggestion that I include a wheat beer in the lineup, because he talked about how powerful the Blue Moon brand is and how much volume they do as one style. It was more than the whole portfolio of Sam Adams. The first one I developed was Wildflower Wheat. Since then I added Double White and I think we’ve seen where that’s gone.”

Double White is now the top-selling beer at Marble, but it does not hold the title of the most awarded beer. That goes to the Pilsner, which was not on the initial menu in 2008, but came about as time went along.

“We had a kolsch in the early days,” Ted said. “I might have tinkered with a blonde ale at some point, I can’t recall. We worked our way up to brewing our Pilsner, which is one of our proudest classics.”

The downtown brewery and taproom in 2008.

The downtown brewery and pub in 2016. Not much has changed, right? (Photo by Mario Caldwell.)

Marble started with eight beers on tap, Ted said. That number has grown by just a bit.

“Now, with the expansions and innovations that we’ve done, with the addition of the Heights brewery, the MavLab, now we have up to 17 beers on tap here downtown and maybe close to 25 on the Westside,” he said. “Now we’re at the space where we can brew the classics that we love, the IPA, Red, and Double White, and have those available for distribution and then have the MavLab with Josh Trujillo at the helm crafting a continuous stream of fun and innovative flavors. We might have had eight beers on tap in the beginning and now at one location we’ve got 25, so that’s pretty cool.”

Marble was also one of the first breweries to embrace live music as part of its taproom experience. There are probably more than a few bands and individual musicians who owe a lot to Marble and the other event-hosting breweries in an era where music venues seem to be closing on a regular basis.

“From the get-go when I saw this space, I said let’s put a stage over here,” Ted said. “Live music has always been one of my passions. I was walking by our patio the other day and I thought to myself this was pretty cool. We’re back in music season with the (nice) weather coming up. I think enjoying a great pint, hanging out with your friends, and listening to live music is just something I can do every single day. We’re happy to support the local scene when it comes to music. We never charge a cover to come see our bands. Seeing bands is an amenity down here and we love to support it.”

Ted Rice showing off the fermentation hall to the Crew when it opened in 2016. (Photo by Mario Caldwell)

Marble was also one of the first local breweries to go all-in on social media as the best means of communicating with its customers. It just had to hire the right person to run that part of the business.

“We knew it was important to have a dedicated, experienced professional communicating with a clear, consistent voice about what we love and what our brand is all about,” Ted said. “So, having the expertise of Leah Black on board has obviously gotten word out about Marble’s events. It can’t just be your (random) bartender anymore banging out tweets, at least for a company our size. Three locations, distribution, music, food trucks, new beers, it’s a never-ending conversation.

“That’s one of the things I love about our operation. We’re not just manufacturing beer for distribution. We’re crafting character and celebrating it every day.”

A big thanks to Ted for being willing to go through the history of Marble a second time (the first was for a certain book that I wrote). And for the full pint of Stout Americano, which is still tasting delicious and more people should be buying right now (hint).

We will have more on Marble’s 10th anniversary later this week as the staff shares their thoughts on what 10 years means to each of them.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister