Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

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

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such historical perspective is often lost on brewers today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

— Reid

A replacement for the original Bosque location is coming in 2018.

The cat finally got out of the proverbial bag late Monday afternoon as Bosque Brewing officially announced it will be replacing its original San Mateo location in 2018. The new spot will be located along the southbound Interstate 25 frontage road along Venice Avenue, in between two existing buildings.

“We purchased a piece of land up here off of the frontage road, between Arizona Tile and the University of Phoenix,” said director of operations/co-owner Jotham Michnovicz. “It’s 1.75 acres and we are going to get rid of the strip mall struggle.”

One of the Bosque employees tipped us off about this potential move a while back, but we had to wait until the full purchase of the property was complete. The new location will be purpose-built as a brewery, housing a 15-barrel brewhouse that will be responsible for producing much of the draft-0nly beers, as well as special seasonal and specialty releases. The production facility in Bernalillo, which is also currently under construction, will handle the main packaged brands (IPA, Lager, Elephants on Parade, Scotia, 1888 Golden Ale) for mass distribution.

“Basically, what we’re going to do is build a brewery that’s more of a production facility,” Jotham said of the new site. “We’ve been wanting to do a lot of fun beers and we haven’t really had the space to do them in volume yet. So, this new building that we’re going to have is a three-story building. The third story (includes) a rooftop patio. The patio is basically a wrap-around. There’s going to be a first-, second-, and third-story patios. You’ll be able to get views of the Balloon Fiesta as well (as the Sandias).”

The first four will not feature any seating, just a standing bar and tables, with glass windows to look into the brewery, said managing director/co-owner Gabe Jensen.

“I’m just excited about the concept of open spaces,” Gabe said. “Downstairs is not going to have any seating. The restaurant (with seating) will be on the second floor. Downstairs will have an open feel so you can browse whatever those things are. We want to have a yard outside. We’re going to have a full-sized bocce ball court, which I’m excited about.”

Gabe said that adding the new project on top of Bernalillo, while having just finished the full retrofit on Las Cruces, and still working on the expansion of the Nob Hill taproom, will be quite the challenge.

“I think the biggest challenge is going to be the fact that we’re going to open Bernalillo very close to when we’re going to open here,” he said. “Even though we haven’t broken ground here, it’s a quicker build, because like you said it’s from scratch and we’re not trying to retrofit things and permitting is more linear. Submit this and you know when you can start. I’m guessing we’re about three-to-four months apart from when we open Bernalillo in February to when we’re going to open this one in April or May, hopefully.”

Getting everything done by May 1 will be key, Gabe added, because that is the end of the current lease at the San Mateo location.

The main focus of the new location, on top of being a fun place to drink beer for customers, is to create more space and improve the existing San Mateo brewery. A new 15-barrel brewhouse will be installed, which will enable the existing brewery to still operate right until the new one is ready to go.

“A big part of that is, we have someone interested in (buying) this one, but we need to install a new while this is still going,” Gabe said. “Putting ourselves three months out of commission wouldn’t be good.”

Gabe said that the goal will be to use the new brewery to be limited runs of specialty beers that can be packaged, but in cans instead of 22-ounce bombers.

“I’m pretty sure, that aside from barrel-aged stuff, bombers are going away, just in general,” he said. “There’s a use for them, but just as a preferred platform for beer, I don’t think it’s there anymore, even for specialty.”

In the end, Bosque will have more room for brewing, which is the most important thing.

“The bottom floor is the biggest footprint,” Jotham said. “The back end is where the brewery is. We’ve got about 5,000 square feet for the brewery, I think, not including the (walk-in) cooler, of course. It’s a nice yard space space for distro.”

That will include, yes, more parking.

“A huge, huge part of the reason we’re (moving),” Gabe said. “We were looking at buying this building, but you come in here Friday at 4 p.m., there’s 88 spaces out there, and 20 are taken by co-workers, another 20 by other tenants, and now you only have 48 plus our distro stuff.”

Jotham said there will be between 90 to 100 spaces just for customers at the new location, with employee and truck parking in a separate area.

Modulus Architects and Snyder Construction will break ground soon on the new facility. The San Mateo location will stay open at least through April.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Stoutmeister hanging out with someone far cooler than him, Firestone Walker co-founder David Walker.

Last week, before things got a bit crazy around here, Firestone Walker co-founder David Walker dropped in on New Mexico. He was checking out the landscape, seeing just how his beer was faring in our fine state. I was lucky enough to catch up with him at Nob Hill Bar & Grill, and once we were done talking about all sorts of other things (he is a bit of a beer history buff, in addition to being a genuinely good and fun person), I did a quick formal interview.

So why did one of the most venerated breweries on the West Coast decide to start distributing in a state of 2 million people?

“To use one expression, the terroir is very similar to the central coast of California,” David said. “It’s rural, it’s beautiful, it’s sort of an artisanal vibe. People enjoy the same things. The tastes are similar.”

The folks from Premier Distributing and the Firestone Walker regional sales reps took David to multiple places throughout the state, giving him a good look at both the setup for beer stores and our local beer scene. He got to make stops at Marble Brewery and Rowley Farmhouse Ales.

“It’s a really vibrant sort of domestic state of brewing,” David said. “There are local breweries that are making great, well-constructed beers. There’s an enduring philosophy. I think you have educated consumers and we all do very well. You go to most stores and 20 to 30 percent is devoted to good breweries.”

Firestone Walker had also seen the success of many of its craft brethren in still being able to carve out a niche in the state in terms of sales.

“Don’t take this as a derogative, (but) it’s not a sort of a number one tier beer market,” David said. “It’s a state that’s not on everybody’s radar when they have a launch plan. Obviously, it wasn’t ours (in the past). Here we are 20 years later. A lot of our good friends are here, Odell, Bell’s. It just felt very comfortable for us.”

Now that Firestone Walker is finding its comfort zone, expect to see a lot more seasonal and specialty offerings.

“New Mexico is going to see everything that we do,” David said. “My hope is that there is enough desire in customers’ palates that we’ll be able to send everything. Our vintage beers, our wild ales, to our experimental IPAs. I feel really good about this state. It’s a few states away from California but it feels close.”

He even said some of the upcoming variants of Parabola will be coming here, which is just what all of us in the Crew were hoping to see happen.

As I told David, when I first moved to Southern California in 2004, the first local beer I tried was Double Barrel Ale. Firestone Walker has been a big part of my craft beer experience over the years, so having their beers here is a mix of nostalgia and hope for the future. Anytime a quality out-of-state brewery arrives, I also feel that it helps push our local breweries to be even better and more creative. David said that was something he hoped for as well. The more good beer, the merrier, right?

A big thanks to everyone at Nob Hill Bar & Grill for setting up the meet and greet, and for David in being a good sport with all of our questions and the many, many photo requests.

Look for the Crew’s outsized Great American Beer Festival preview Tuesday.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Time to take notice of The 377 Brewery

Posted: July 19, 2017 by tahogue in Interviews, News
Tags:

These tanks have been churning out some high-quality beers at The 377.

When I last wrote about The 377 Brewery back in November, it was literally in its infancy, having just recently opened the month prior. I’m more than happy to report that time, as well as experience, have definitely had positive impacts on The 377.

Upon entering, head brewer Lyna Waggoner was all smiles as she reported that her El CuCuy IPA had just finished in first place out of 35 entries in the preliminary round of the NM IPA Challenge at Duel Brewing ABQ on Saturday afternoon. My sample of El CuCuy (in Hispanic folklore, a mythical ghost-monster equivalent to the boogeyman) provided proof that the first-place finish was no fluke. It was a fragrant, satisfying, and refreshing IPA, to be sure. In a confident and excited tone, Waggoner said, “It’s on to the next round!” That round is tonight (Wednesday) at Picacho Peak Brewing in Las Cruces. Keep an eye out for the results.

In addition to that exciting news, there was the fact that the brewery’s Schwartzbier won Best of Class, Double Gold at the 2017 Denver International Beer Competition in April. Add it up and it is an impressive early track record, to be sure, and an indication of Waggoner’s commitment to brewing outstanding beers.

Obviously, awards are often the most satisfying accomplishment for a brewer, but when asked what she is the most proud of during her eight-plus months at the helm of The 377, Waggoner said, “The fact that I have been able to nail my recipes and provide multiple, well-rounded beers on tap.”

In terms of equipment and the environmental limitations that most brewers encounter with new brewery openings, she said, “I believe it’s the quality of the brewer, not the system.”

Well, look at that, The 377 has its first barrel. Oh, the possibilities!

She went on to say that she truly feels like she has her brewing system “dialed-in.” Waggoner said that her next plan is to venture into the wonderful world of barrel-aging, as she pointed to a whiskey barrel prominently displayed nearby.

After touring the improved layout of the equipment, I reflected on what Waggoner had said her goals were for 2017 during our first interview, and quickly realized that she has stayed true to them all. If you haven’t yet ventured over to the corner of Yale and Gibson, or if it’s been awhile since your last visit, do yourself a favor and stop in The 377 for some solid, award-winning beers! It is most definitely time to take notice of The 377 Brewery and head brewer Lyna Waggoner.

Cheers!

— Tom