Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

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

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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

Well, hello there new IPA.

It has been quite a while since Santa Fe Brewing, the largest brewery in the state by production, has introduced a new year-round beer. In fact, it was when Black IPA went from seasonal to regular, though in that case it was a long-standing beer loved by many. This time around, SFBC went with something new.

This past weekend marked the debut of 7K IPA, the new hop-forward brew named for the 7,000-foot-plus elevation of the city, county, and brewery. SFBC brewmaster Bert Boyce was kind enough to carve out a half-hour on Friday afternoon to sit down at the Albuquerque taproom to chat about the genesis of just why he felt it was time to roll out a new hop bomb into a lupulin-saturated market.

“We wanted to try to make something more modern,” Bert said. “So, we’ve been playing around with the seasonal IPAs — Western Bloc, Autonomous Collective, Hipster Union, and Snowflake. We’re playing around with some different methods, materials, et cetera. We’re just taking a more modern, aggressive IPA, but that’s still very much in our style. When I say our style, I do mean the Santa Fe style and my personal style are aligned on this. I’m not trying to beat anyone over the head. I want this to be super approachable, friendly, drinkable, but just have big aroma and flavor.

“You have to have an IPA to compete in this town. (Happy) Camper is great and it is what it is. It does it for a lot of people, but I felt like we needed to make a statement.”

So how does 7K stack up against its packaged IPA brethren from Bosque, Canteen, La Cumbre, Marble, Sierra Blanca, and Tractor?

“That’s always a very loaded question, because I don’t want to specifically position ourselves against anyone,” Bert said. “We’re trying to make the beer we want to drink. But, that said, I’m going to take the back road to that question. I really like the idea of what a Northeast IPA is supposed to be. I feel the execution is sorely lacking a lot of times. I do believe, in line with my personal preferences for as long as I’ve been in the industry, is that people really don’t want (overwhelming) bitterness. They want flavor and aroma, but they don’t want bitterness and they don’t want aggressive astringency.”

That does seem to be true locally. The days of the IPA Challenge being so hop-heavy that the entries could peel the paint off the walls has been replaced by more balanced, more nuanced IPAs. Heck, that one style that so many beer geeks seem to love has become so prominent locally that it seems as though every brewery has one on tap now.

“That’s the whole juicy IPA phenomenon,” Bert said. “(But) how do you make that happen? It’s not easy. So we did it with a selection of (many) hop varieties and all of the other levers we had to make a beer that was super aromatic and yet super drinkable. I’m not trying to challenge anyone’s palate. You don’t have to like 100-plus IBUs to like this beer. So, I would say, given that, I’d say we’re less aggressive than Elevated. I love John (Bullard’s) beers, so I’d say it’s probably most similar to Bosque. There’s a little Eldo in there. From my palate, I think John uses a lot of Eldo, so I taste some similarities. I think it’s a little more substantial (in mouthfeel) than Marble. Better? Worse? Different? I don’t know. It’s just the beer that we arrived at after making all these other specialties for the last two years or so. (I told the staff) it’s time to make something year-round.”

I am hardly the IPA poet that Franz Solo is, but after downing a couple pints of 7K with Bert, I have to say he hit the nail on the head. His new baby begins with a powerful, yet inviting aroma, a veritable bouquet of fresh hops that draw you in. The beer that follows is flavorful without that overt bitterness. It is somehow smooth for an IPA, yet never loses its touch. There is a strong floral element that produces that mid-palate, in-mouth aroma sensation that gives you a moment of beer nirvana. The finish is clean, with mild sweetness and no bitter aftertaste. For an IPA, 7K is almost a pure hybrid of so many other styles, mixing the best elements of West Coast, East Coast, New England, and more. It feels like it has a heavy malt bill behind it without being heavy in the mouthfeel, if that makes any sense.

“To me, this is the fun in brewing, is tweaking people’s perceptions without changing the reality,” Bert said. “This beer is actually still incredibly dry, but we’ve done a couple things to get the perception that it still has some body. I was thinking about this this morning, I don’t know if it’s because I’m old and grumpy, but I want to drink multiple beers and enjoy them. I’m not into sipping anymore, I want to drink a beer. I think if you make it so substantial, oh, it tastes really good. But, how does it drink? I wanted to make a beer that drank well. Tweaking that perception of sweetness and a maltier body, while still not leaving you feel bloated, that’s where we’re taking a cue from the big guys. They’re not so dumb after all. They make a beer that still is drinkable.”

Though it is officially the first time 7K has hit taps and appeared in six-pack cans, SFBC was able to sneak it out in the market twice already to get some feedback.

“This is actually the third iteration, we just didn’t call the first two 7K,” Bert said. “We kind of snuck them out there. The feedback has been very positive. Usually it’s the aroma, like you said. I think we tweaked our methods enough to get a really strong aroma that is very inviting, but not menacing. That’s what we were going for. It’s big, it’s juicy, it’s fairly soft, well, I wouldn’t say soft, but on the softer side.”

Yeah, that about sums it up. A big thanks to Bert for taking the time to chat on a busy Friday. We look forward to enjoying plenty of 7K this summer and beyond.

We want to know what all of you think about 7K IPA. Leave us a message on our social media platforms or drop us an email at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com. We expect a wide range of responses to this beer. Once we have several in hand, the rest of the Crew will share their impressions with you.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Southwest Grape and Grain has been reorganized by its new owner.

As the member of the Crew who does quite a lot of consistent home brewing, I was intrigued when I heard that ownership of Southwest Grape and Grain, my main local source for brewing supplies and ingredients, had changed hands. It turns out I already knew the gentleman who took over for the previous owner, Kevin Davis of Boxing Bear.

Donavan Lane may be known to some of you as the former co-owner/brewer at the since-closed Broken Bottle Brewing. As he told me when we met, he had an interest from the beginning in opening a home-brewing supply store, but at the time Grape and Grain had just opened and there was also Victor’s Grape Arbor in the metro area as well, making a third shop likely unsustainable.

Fast forward to the early stages of this year and Kevin approached Donavan about taking over Grape and Grain, due to the increasing demands on his time due to the success of Boxing Bear. Kevin said he knew that Donavan had the interest and knowledge to continue the success he had started. From my initial and subsequent visits to Grape and Grain, this has been a productive transition. On to our conversation.

Donavan: So, initially we were going through the product mix of what we had and we’ve got our clearance rack. We’ve been trying to go through and clear out stuff that doesn’t sell or that we had for awhile, or that we had multiple similar items of. We’ve been slowly pulling items that we know we don’t want to keep anymore, or maybe we can get a better quality item from a different vendor. Prior to Broken Bottle, I spent nine years in retail management, so stepping into here the scale of things is different, but a lot of the things you learn in corporate retail management apply here. Simple things like consistent signage where we went through the whole store and replaced every sign so it has the same font and the same style, little things like that.

Solo: The devil’s in the details.

Getting everything organized was a major goal inside the store.

Donavan: It’s kind of been a process of shifting things around where before you move one thing, you’ve got to move something else. Over the years, as different products came in and different vendors, well it got to the point that everything in the store was fairly disorganized.

Solo: It was a bit of clutter somewhat and kind of an adventure walking around trying to pick out this or that.

Donavan: Yeah, you had this piece for kegging over here, this piece over there, so we wanted to get draft equipment in one area, beer-brewing equipment in one area, wine-making equipment in one area, beer ingredients in one area, so that you’re not having to go back and forth all over the store. That’s been a little bit of a process to get it all moved around, but we’re finally pretty much there where we’re not going to be shifting much more.

Solo: At least for awhile.

Donavan: The other things were getting displays out, trying to have every single item have a display model where people can actually see it. And, it’s a simple thing, like put up a bottle tree and put some bottles on it so people can see what its actually used for. It makes a big difference, especially for beginning home brewers who don’t necessarily know what all of the equipment is.

Solo: Yeah, if you can actually see it out you get sort of a sense in your head of, oh, this might be what I need to do this, and you can start to build a picture of how the whole process goes and that’s, well, what a good store should be.

Donavan: We are starting to get there with moving everything around, and we’ve already been bringing in quite a few new products, but there’s more and more that we’re looking to bring in. We just recently got in kombucha-making kits.

Solo: I saw your Facebook post about that. I’ve seen a lot more of a media presence as well.

Donavan: Well, exactly. Kevin, what with time constraints, just got to point where he wasn’t able to dedicate the time here that he was in the first couple years that it was open. So, a lot of that stuff went to the wayside. We’re working on using Facebook, social media, getting our email list back up and running, where we’ll start sending out monthly newsletters. The basic stuff that Kevin did initially, but then kind of got away from with time constraints on him.

Solo: Definitely, well with Boxing Bear doing so well that they had to expand over that whole building.

That grain is just waiting to become beer.

Donavan: We’re also looking at things like kegerators and things like that, so we started looking at actually making them and selling them to customers where previously we would have the parts and Kevin would show how to do it, but we didn’t sell the units put together.

Solo: Yeah, they’re not too bad to build.

Donavan: A lot of home brewers want to build things themselves. That’s part of the hobby, but there are quite a few home brewers, too, that either don’t have the tools or don’t have the mechanical ability to build something like that. In the latter case, they’d rather just say can I simply buy it?

Solo: There’s an extent to which people want to go this far, some people want to go that far, it just really depends person to person. Do I want to build a kegerator or do I want to just buy this thing outright? Do I want to make a wort chiller or is this something I’d rather procure pre-made so that it’s streamlined instead of my own crazy wire contraption? (Which works quite well I might add, though she many not be the prettiest.)

Donavan: On that account, we are starting to make some of our own products here in the store. That’s part of my long-term goal is to start manufacturing some different home-brewing equipment ourselves, like for example wort chillers. We are buying wort chillers pre-made and these ones here (available in store) we made. We designed a jig and comparing these to the ones we were buying, they look identical, and we just made a jig to be able to wrap it really tightly and neatly and do all of the bends properly and such. Little things like that, where we want to start getting our own line of some different equipment, which allows us to offer some of our different ideas on design and on a basic thing like this (wort chiller), save cost and offer it for a little bit less cheaper than what we had.

The other thing we just started doing and we are still in the process, we haven’t gotten it completely stocked yet, but we are starting to do our own ingredients kits.

Solo: Nice, that’s awesome.

Donavan: The brewer’s best ones, they have quite a bit of variety, but we’ve been trying to pick different styles that they don’t necessarily have available.

Solo: So you’ll get to throw in some more creativity into the recipes.

Add a few barrel chips to give your home brew a new dimension of flavor.

Donavan: Yeah, so we’re just starting to put those together we got them out on the shelf in this last week. I’ve started reaching out to all of the breweries, because with doing our own kits I want to do a line of clone kits of New Mexico breweries. So, I’ve started talking to several of the breweries and there are several that are on board already. They’re going to give us one or two of their recipes where we’ll do a clone kit there and it will be branded with XYZ brewery. So, it gives them a little promotion and we are looking to get that going in the next few weeks.

Solo: That’s a great idea.

Donavan: You know that the brewery industry, the people outside of it think they’re all in competition, and to people who work in it realize that they all work together, they all help each other out.

Solo: Yeah, there is competition, but there is also a desire to build something better in this community and in our state. Every time I interview someone from a different place they will tell me, ‘Yeah I lent a bag of grain over here, they lent us a keg washer while we were doing this.’ Everyone helps everyone else out and the industry as grown because of it and is better for it.

Donavan: We really want to work on building relationships, too, with the breweries. I mean, we’re not necessarily in the same industry, but a lot of their customers are our customers and our customers are their customers. A lot of the brewers started out as home brewers, built their knowledge, and worked their way up to that. We’ve been doing classes and for every class I’ve tried to get a brewery to sponsor it, so they will bring some beer in for people to sample and send one of their brewers to hang out during the class, and give themselves a little plug and chime in on a question or two. The customers like it because it’s not just me giving a class, it’s a professional brewer doing it and reiterating what I’m saying. So, we’ve been trying to build those relationships and do those as well.

Solo: Yeah, I always thought it would be fun to have more variety, because it’s fine, I started off on kits as most of us do, but having more variety there, that gives you more ideas and starts your creative juices flowing and leads to better things.

Donavan: That’s our goal to maybe fill in some of these spots and try different stuff. All of these are extract kits. We are also going to start to do all-grain kits, too. Customers make that jump from extract to an all grain, and sometimes some of that hesitation is well, OK, now I understand the all-grain process and I’ve created my equipment and have what I need, but finding the recipe of what they want to do is a little daunting.

Solo: Getting a good recipe and then getting to know the actual grains well enough to where you feel comfortable enough to say, oh, I’m going to take this grain that grain and this other grain in roughly these quantities and come up with something on my own. Having an all-grain kit and recipe definitely helps to bridge that gap.

Everything a home brewer needs to make his or her own kit.

Donavan: So yeah, those all-grain kits we will be putting together will make it easy for those customers that are just now making that jump to all grain, and so for their first few all-grain batches they can do just like I did with extract brewing, and just buy a kit for a certain recipe.

Long term, ideally we want to find a more centralized locationm since at present we’re in one corner of the city here, so when our lease is up here we will look at the possibility of finding something more centralized. We are looking to get out to events as well, we did the Science of Beer event at Explora, and we’ve definitely gotten a lot of good feedback on events like that. (Editor’s note: SWGG was at BearFest this past weekend.) Customers who don’t even necessarily know that we are here might go to an event like that and over the summer we are looking at maybe trying to get out to farmer’s markets.

Solo: You are (part of our) local community, so you should be a part of something like that.

Donavan: A lot of the people who are going to farmer’s markets are the same type of people who make their own beer or kombucha or wine, et cetera.

Solo: Yeah, you get a person who wants to have more control over their food, their drink, and own that whole process as much as they can.

Donavan: We do have some other long-term goals as well. At some point, we might look at getting a (small) brewer’s license here in the store, not to necessarily try to be a brewery, but if someone walks in and they want to have a beer, then you could have a beer while you are shopping. Bring in local beer on tap, and if we have a clone from a certain brewery we can say hey, we have that on tap here if you’d like to try it. (Then) here’s the recipe right here, you can try to make that beer at home. Things like that are kind of long-term goals, a few years down the road, probably. Here, obviously, space-wise we don’t have room to add something like that. But, it’s something we will definitely be looking at in the future when we look at new locations.

Solo: That would be awesome, to be able to have a pint while you are thinking up a recipe would be just amazing.

Donavan: Just a matter of taking all of the steps to actually get there.

Solo: Yeah, organization being first and expanding your base, (then) looking for a place that’s going to accommodate that and grow those ideas and so forth.

Donavan: The other things we’ve talked about doing is having a corner that’s just all schwag from all of the local breweries, where if we end up doing the brewer’s license and have a bunch of local beer on tap, that would just localize it to where you can just buy it all in one place, rather than going from brewery to brewery. That’s something we might look at talking to the breweries about as well. We might look at doing a section of the store that’s just man-cave stuff as well.

Solo: Totally, the two things absolutely go together. I mean, I have a room that’s just all my stuff, and then the closet’s just filled with my home brewery (equipment).

Donavan: Whether it’s brewery signs or bottle openers or different things like that.

Solo: Cool stuff that all ties in together. These are good ideas, I like all of them.

Donavan: It’s a matter of just taking the steps and slowly working our way from one step to another and getting it all in place. Other than that, it’s just the day-to-day running the store and helping people make beer and wine and enjoying it.

* * * * *

The results speak for themselves, as Donavan has the time to dedicate and the knowledge needed to make Grape and Grain successful now and in the years to come.

“It wasn’t like we had to come in and reinvent the wheel or anything,” he added. “I came in and said let’s tweak this and put my own touch on that and refine that and take it to the next level.”

There are frequent events on brewing and such for all different levels which are offered at the store typically on weekends so check out their website or check them out on Facebook for details. Above all, if you have an interest in beginning to brew or learn more about your craft, I heartily recommend heading down to Grape and Grain. Happy brewing!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

If you have all sufficiently recovered from the concert at El Rey, pick a taproom and enjoy a special beer today!

Back when we presented our preview for the Marble ninth anniversary week events, one of the lingering questions was what beers would be part of the special From the Wood triple release. Well, thanks to Marble marketing and events coordinator Geraldine Lucero being her awesome self, we have the scoop before any of the three taprooms open today at noon.

  • Cereza Cerveza (6.2% ABV), which debuted at Tart at Heart 3 last weekend, will be at Marble 111 (Downtown).
  • Gin Blossom Ashlar (7% ABV) will be at the Northeast Heights taproom.
  • Nitro Brune (8.5% ABV) will be at the Westside taproom.

Each of the beers will offer up a unique and different tasting experience.

“The one that I’m really excited about is the Cereza Cerveza,” Geraldine said. “We’re using pilsner malt, Magnum hops, Chardonnay barrels, Dalton cherries, and lots of patience. The tasting notes on that are bright cherry flavor, neat and subtle funk, lively acidity, and mellow notes of oak creating an easy-drinking, fruited sour.”

Even as a non-sour drinker, I personally enjoyed that beer at Tart at Heart. It pretty much tastes exactly as those tasting notes describe.

The Gin Blossom Ashlar is the Double White aged in Stonecutter Spirits gin barrels.

“Some of the tasting notes from this beer: The Double White takes on notes of rosemary and mint and juniper berries, as well as a subtle vanilla bourbon note,” Geraldine added. “We tried it (Wednesday). It’s so good, it’s so tasty.”

Considering how much you all love Double White, this one should go fast.

The Nitro Brune is the La Brune on nitro, as if one could not tell by the name. The CO2 version debuted back on New Years Day and proved to be quite popular.

“Some of the tasting notes on the Nitro Brune: Notes of prune and dried cherries. A smooth tartness and warming notes of vanilla and bourbon from the oak blend together to make a luscious experience in the glass,” Geraldine said.

Marble Westside is fast becoming a major destination for people who like a wide variety in their beers.

“Our Westside location has 25 different beers on tap right now,” Geraldine said. “That’s insane. We’re also doing an archive beer tapping there Saturday. DJ Leftover Soul will be there Saturday night.”

Archive beer tapping? Lord help us if they have vintages of Imperial Stout and/or Reserve Ale. Oh, Isotopes, you just had to be home this week …

Anyway, Geraldine also had a couple additional news tidbits she wanted to pass along.

“I’ll give you a little scoop,” she said. “Have you tried the Indiana Bones Raider of the Lost Ale? That’s an IPA that drinks like a 6-percent (ABV) IPA but it’s only 4 percent. It’s a delicious, hop-forward, I couldn’t believe that it’s only 4 percent.”

OK, an early contender for best beer name of the year right there. We will let everyone know when it pops up on tap, but you can keep track yourself by checking the constantly updated beer menus for all three Marble locations on Untappd. Just search by venue and you will find them.

For those of you who love the beer/food pairings at Marble, they have a huge one coming up for Cinco de Mayo.

“Something else that we’re working on other than anniversary week that’s coming up is our (next) Crave featuring Chef David Gaspar from Artichoke Cafe,” Geraldine said. “We’re turning the fermentation hall into a dining hall again. A four-course meal paired with four special brews. We met with Chef David this afternoon to do a tasting.

“The beer lineup is looking like Pilsner Anejo will be on the menu, the Hans Cholo is going to be on there, and we’re thinking about putting our Pineapple Gose on the menu. That’s what we started with (Wednesday). He’s going to come up with some pairing ideas and we’re going to do a tasting at Artichoke next week. Tickets are looking like they’re starting at $60 a seat (for) Friday, May 5.”

Artichoke Cafe and Marble? As soon as those tickets go on sale, get them, because they will go fast.

Thanks to Geraldine for taking the time out of her (insanely) busy day to chat. And thanks to old Crew friend Tyler for the samples of Pineapple Gose, Hans Cholo, and Maibock, the ninth anniversary beer that is now on tap and for sale in bombers.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Tractor’s Nob Hill taproom is back behind those trees, away from much of the construction for the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project.

The Albuquerque Draft Station shut its doors on April 3, through no fault of its own. The Albuquerque Rapid Transit project had torn up Central Avenue outside, and during the construction a water line was ruptured, forcing the craft beer bar to shut its doors. Draft Station would not reopen until April 12. Nine days of revenue were lost.

It was perhaps the most extreme example of the negative effects of the ongoing construction, which has hampered businesses not only in the stretch of Central west of downtown, but also in Nob Hill, which has been torn to pieces for months. The Crew reached out to the breweries and off-site taprooms in the affected areas. While Bosque and Draft Station never got back to us, I did have a chance to sit down with Kaktus owner Dana Koller, Kellys head brewer Dan Cavan, and Tractor marketing director Jeremy Kinter. Each of their respective Nob Hill locations has had a different experience with A.R.T.

Kaktus only opened its taproom on December 31, 2015, making it one of the more recent new additions to the neighborhood.

“We only opened a few months before we really started getting into that (construction),” Dana said. “We don’t have numbers to compare it to, but it’s definitely been an uphill battle. We feel there’s a (clear) reason for that. We’re getting our high ratings, people love what we’re doing up there, but it has been really difficult to get that walk-in traffic. We see our numbers going up slowly, really slowly, but they are going up. I think we would be about 35 to 40 percent stronger if the construction wasn’t there.”

Kellys has also had a hard time discerning the exact impact of the construction, as the longtime brewpub recently went through an ownership change. Now under Santa Fe Dining’s umbrella, Kellys has revamped its food and beer menu.

“Honestly, I think it’s just slightly less than business than usual,” Dan said. “Probably the changeover had more impact than this on our sales.”

Tractor has been the most established and stable of the three, but that has not meant it has avoided a drop in sales.

“It’s been interesting, but surprisingly enough A.R.T. hasn’t impacted us as deeply as we expected,” Jeremy said. “We’ve held our own. Sales have been down, yes. We have noticed a drop, but it has not been significant by any means. We’re one of the lucky few.”

Tractor does have a couple things in its favor. First off, it has its own established parking lot out front, and many customers over the years have learned to park on the side streets like Silver and Tulane. The taproom also has a loyal clientele from the residential neighborhood to the south.

“What’s nice about our Nob Hill location is it’s more like a Cheers (style) bar,” Jeremy said. “There’s a ton of regulars and those regulars still come, mostly from around the neighborhood.”

Parking issues are still there for everyone, however.

“We’re one of the lucky few where we have parking, unlike areas like Harvard, for instance, in the Bricklight District,” Jeremy said. “That’s a lot tougher. Getting there is really tough, getting in and out is really tough. I know Winnings (Coffee) is having a tough time. They have the Indiegogo campaign for $10,000. It’s really sad to see that it’s impacting those bigger businesses as well. I don’t want to see Off-Broadway go out of business. AstroZombies won’t go out of business, but they’ve taken a hit. Everyone has taken a hit. Nob Hill Bar & Grill, they’ve taken a hit. Even Two Fools.”

It is that drop in support for all businesses in Nob Hill that has Tractor concerned.

“All in all, it has impacted us, but not bad,” Jeremy said. “We’re more concerned with the neighborhood in general. That’s our biggest concern right now, concerned with the other businesses shutting down like Red Wing (Shoes), Hey Johnny, the furniture store. We’re worried about the impact on Nob Hill in general, because that impacts all of us.”

These sorts of signs are becoming all too common in Nob Hill, worrying the breweries and taprooms.

Kaktus has made moves to try to combat that by bringing the various businesses together.

“We’ve been trying to get involved wherever we can,” Dana said. “We did that passport program recently to encourage business and encourage the businesses to come together and build that excitement. I’m happy to see that our numbers are going up, because that means we’ll probably make it, even though it’s been a struggle. Chances are high we’ll make it, especially after the construction is done. We should see some strong numbers.”

The passport program involved 19 businesses on or near Central, where patrons could get a small booklet and receive a stamp every time they made a purchase. They could then turn them in to be part of a drawing for $700 in prizes.

“It got us some positive exposure in the media,” Dana said. “It’s the perception that people are getting more than anything else, if we kind of create events, they’ll make their way down. That was pretty successful for the first one. The biggest thing was we got positive news. It was in the Journal. KOAT covered it.”

Kaktus may look to do a second go-around with the passport program, Dana said, as construction is expected to continue through July. Those construction plans extending into summer is where the Nob Hill locations could start to see a major impact.

As Dan noted for Kellys, “we’re patio driven, so we’re also weather driven,” meaning the coming weeks and months will truly show whether or not the construction will have a tangible effect on the brewpub.

“They’ll probably finish the bulk of the construction during our slow season,” Dan said. “(But) it will be interesting to see what happens when they’re working on the sidewalk on our side of the street.”

The bulk of the sidewalk construction is currently along the north side of Central in Nob Hill. It has created headaches for locations such as Il Vicino, Two Fools, Matanza, and more. Once it reaches the south side, where it could begin to affect Tractor, Kellys, Nob Hill Bar & Grill, and even close to Bosque.

The sidewalk construction is creeping closer toward Kellys.

One major casualty, events wise, has been the loss of the annual Pride Parade, which will move to Lomas this year. The uncertain end date for construction means that Route 66 Summerfest could also be in jeopardy of being relocated.

“That’s a huge loss for us, especially for Tractor and our involvement in the LGBTQR community,” Jeremy said. “That’s one of our big demographics. We have Drag Queen Bingo and we do events sometimes with the social club. At Pride we do a float and people come to Tractor (afterwards). That was a big loss for us and we weren’t too happy about it moving to Lomas, but we understood. You can’t do that on Central right now.”

Tractor still intends to be involved with the parade.

“The word as of now is next year it will move back to Central, which is good,” Jeremy said. “Also, they’re working with me to let Tractor to close down a portion of the street or block in Nob Hill and host a post-Pride Parade party. That’s a nice stipulation that they gave us. They’re working with us and Nob Hill Bar & Grill.”

The Tractor staff is thinking positive thoughts about Summerfest staying put. So far, city officials have not officially committed to keeping it in place, nor have they officially said it would be moved. That call may not come for another few weeks, so the city can better analyze the state of the construction and its progress.

“What we were concerned with, and we just had a meeting with the economic development (committee), and our biggest concern has been the loss of Summerfest,” Jeremy said. “As you know, Summerfest is a huge event in Nob Hill. It’s our number one day for sales. That’s the case for a lot of the businesses in Nob Hill. There has been some talk of Summerfest moving away from Nob Hill, but that hasn’t happened. We’re very fortunate for that.”

Kellys, likewise, will miss having the Pride Parade around and hopes that Summerfest is not going anywhere.

“Those are huge bumps,” Dan said. “Losing Pride from Central, we’re busy from 7:30 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon. That will definitely impact us. Summerfest is huge, that’s the largest event on Central. Just keep it rolling, get (the construction) done by Summerfest.”

For now, the Nob Hill breweries will keep their fingers crossed that things will keep trending in a positive direction as the construction gets closer to completion. None have been hit so hard that they are in danger of closing shop, but not every business in the district can make the same claim.

“We’re more concerned about the neighborhood in general than ourselves,” Jeremy said. “Tractor will be fine. We do things to try to drive traffic there. We have music two nights a week. We have art openings. We have those events to generate our own traffic. Scalo, I think, is bringing back music as well. It’s about that time of year. We opened our patio. Once the warmer weather is back we’ll see more traffic.”

The Crew will keep an eye on the status of all the breweries and taprooms up and down Central, as well as the ultimate fate of Summerfest.

In the meantime, get back out to the affected areas and show your support for all the businesses in Nob Hill, East Downtown, West Downtown/Old Town, and downtown itself whenever the construction finally reaches there. Let us focus on helping our local small businesses, whether they sell beer or not, keep their doors open, regardless of the status of old Route 66. Lomas and Lead/Coal are our friends!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister