Archive for the ‘Look Back/Look Ahead Series 2018-19’ Category

Boxing Bear head brewer/co-owner Justin Hamilton with his new pride and joy (at work, anyway), the brewery’s first canning line.

The last few weeks have been exceptionally busy for the staff at Boxing Bear Brewing. It has not just been the mad rush to finish the brewery’s first offsite taproom, which opens today (Wednesday) at 1710 Central Ave. SW, next door to Amore Pizza. There has also been the arrival of a new canning line, plus additional equipment in the brewery, and the time needed to learn how to use some of that.

Oh, and did we also mention that head brewer/co-owner Justin Hamilton’s wife is about two weeks from her due date? Add it all up and it was a wonder that Justin found the time to sit down for the better-later-than-never Boxing Bear entry in our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series.

“It’s been a crazy ride in 2019,” Justin said. “I’ve definitely been packing the brewery. Last week we got three more 20-barrel fermenters and a 20-barrel serving vessel. (Today), actually we have another bright tank and another fermenter coming. Since we ordered that much equipment that comes on two different shifts, which kind of screwed us a little bit, because it would have been nice to put everything in at the same time last week.

“It’s been a whole lot of madness. We literally pulled in those four tanks, it was the second exact time the Wild Goose employee showed up to train us. We moved four tanks inside and then proceeded to set up the canning line in the same day. It was pretty nuts. That being said, we did all right.”

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The oldest brewery in town is throwing a party this June, and it’s gonna be BIG.

The answer to the question of what is the oldest brewery in Albuquerque is apparent the moment anyone walks into Canteen Brewhouse, what with the 25th anniversary signs plastered everywhere.

It has been a long road from the early days brewing in the back of the Il Vicino location in Nob Hill to the current brewery, so to take stock of it all, I sat down with head brewer Zach Guilmette and general manager Jamie Schwebach in one of our last Look Back/Look Ahead Series interviews for 2018-19.

“We saw continued growth last year,” Jamie said. “Having the patio redone was a huge help. We were able to showcase the beers Zach was making. I think we’ve had a lot of fun with a lot of different styles of beer.”

“The beer is the beer, but you can’t succeed without good service, someone who is connecting with the community,” Zach added.

Head brewer Zach Guilmette with his pride and joy, High Plains Pilsner.

Zach and Jamie spent most of the interview heaping praise upon one another, and both are quite right that things have gotten a lot better over the last year at Canteen.

“What I’ve noticed after being here three years is the last year has really seen a much bigger outreach to the community with different, diversified events that Jamie has put on,” Zach said. “Such as weightlifting competitions, drag queen bingo, and at least one other fun event.”

“I think we’ve created some great partnerships with the community,” Jamie said. “We’re making sure we’re giving back to the community, whether it’s hosting nonprofit night and giving 20 percent sales back, to partnering to run 5Ks, to the Valle De Oro partnership with the development of their space in the South Valley. It’s been good opportunities to give back. … I really feel our owners have really encouraged that, really encouraged community partnerships. It’s been fun.”

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Red Door head brewer Matt Meier has been kept plenty busy with canning Vanilla Cream Ale, along with everything else at the brewery and beyond.

Red Door head brewer Matt Meier has been a busy man of late. Not only has his brewery started canning one of its most popular beers, Vanilla Cream Ale, but it also opened a new taproom in Clovis, and on top of all that work, he and his wife welcomed their first baby into the world.

Amazingly, Matt was not sound asleep when I stopped by the main Red Door location on Candelaria last week for an interview for our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series.

“Actually, this month marks a full calendar year since I’ve been at Red Door,” Matt said. “It was awesome. I had a great time. I felt we grew a lot. Obviously, signing on with a distributor (Premier) last year that was able to take us statewide. Our taprooms have seen sustained growth in the last year, and now with the most recent opening in Clovis … within a year now, not to mention cans, cans was huge, and then (this Saturday) we’re going to be releasing Mail Order Russian Imperial Stout in bottles.”

Matt paused to take a breath before continuing.

“Stuff like that we couldn’t have dreamed of a year ago,” he said. “We’ve got two new tanks in. We’re able to (brew) two batches a day now. Jason Larson, the assistant brewer, he’s moved into more of an assistant brewer role instead of just a cellarman. We’re just trying to put out some volume now. Last year was the first year we did over 1,000 barrels, which I thought was pretty cool to do (in my) first year.”

An actual hot liquor tank makes Matt a happy brewer.

As Matt noted, it all starts in the brewery, which saw its first major new pieces of equipment arrive in some time.

“We didn’t have a hot liquor tank before,” he said. “It was heating up all the day’s water in the kettle and sending it off to an empty fermenter and then brewing with that. In order to do two batches a day, we’d have to entirely clean out the kettle after the first batch, rinse it out and get it nice and clean, and then fill it back up with cold water, wait for that to heat, and start all over again. That wasn’t really ideal. Now that we’ve got a hot liquor tank we’re able to stagger our batches where the first batch goes into the kettle and the second batch gets smashed in. It’s stuff that most of the production breweries have been doing for a while now. That’s huge for us.”

Red Door also purchased a new 30-barrel bright tank, and old 30-barrel fermenter used as a temporary hot liquor tank can now be used for beer. Matt said those two tanks, specifically, are used for the production of Vanilla Cream Ale for cans. The old 15-barrel fermenters and brights handle the beer for kegging.

Moving into packaging for the first time has been an up-and-down experience so far for Red Door, but more on the positive side.

“The reception has been great, (but) it’s not without any headaches,” Matt said. “For a little while there there were a couple cans that were mis-seemed that didn’t get caught on the canning line. Tracking those down and going back through every sign can that we did to make sure it doesn’t go out to market, that’s been a fun headache. But, that’s just growing pains, and after a first run with a canning line we’re unfamiliar with and they’re unfamiliar with us, those things are going to happen. I shouldn’t say we’re surprised, it was just a little bit of a headache.”

The biggest of the fermenters is responsible for getting that Vanilla Cream Ale ready for canning.

Matt said the next canning run, which is done by the folks at Mother Road Mobile Canning, will take place April 8, with hopefully one more run after that at the end of April. Each run will feature 200 to 300 cases.

“Our distributor originally allotted only 30 accounts based on the first 200 cases that we sold them, just because they didn’t know what we could do,” Matt said. “Now with the second batch coming through we can say all right, take that list of 30 and expand it to 60, slowly start creeping cans out into the market.”

Of course, with any accomplishment, be it cans or elsewhere in the brewery, there comes the inevitable question of what is next. Matt said there are no current plans to add a second canned offering anytime soon.

“That’s definitely down the line,” he said. “At some point this year I’m sure we’ll have a conversation about maybe a couple more fermenters and another bright tank, but those thoughts are just dreams right now. If we’re going to go with another style of beer in a can, the next one we’ll probably lean towards is our Irish Red. To get to that point, though, we want to get real comfortable with what we’re doing with Vanilla and keep up with the demand for Vanilla before we start with another brand out in cans.”

Red Door owner Matt Biggs, second from left, and his staff celebrated the grand opening of the Clovis taproom this weekend. (Photo courtesy of Red Door)

Packaging has certainly been a big focus of late in the brewery, but outside of town, Red Door has been revving up its latest taproom. This one, however, is not in Albuquerque, but in far-off Clovis. Located inside a bowling alley, the taproom officially held its grand opening over the weekend, after our interview.

“Just the reception we got from announcing we were going to open a taproom and then soft opening weekend, I think it’s a great decision of ours to move down to a market that doesn’t have a craft scene, but it’s definitely thirsty for one,” Matt said.

Once upon a time I met some Air Force personnel in Oklahoma who had previously served in New Mexico. Those who served at Cannon AFB, next to Clovis, complained that they had next to no craft beer options compared to their compatriots who were stationed at Kirtland. That crowd alone should keep Red Door busy, plus the other options in town are fairly limited to a handful of restaurants with beer-and-wine licenses, and a few bars that can charge a cover anytime they feel like it. Throw in the fact that Red Door will stay open until 11 p.m., while most others close at 10, and the taproom should be plenty busy.

“They’re on an island,” Matt said. “Luckily, we have a ton of space to work with down there. There’s a second walk-in cooler that’s at our disposable, so it can actually be an off-site warehouse cooler for me if I needed it to be. So them running low on beer isn’t going to be a hassle and us making more beer and trying to find a place in our cooler to store it isn’t going to be that big of an issue, at least for the foreseeable future.”

Red Door owner Matt Biggs also chimed in after arriving late with an apology for misreading the time.

“It was an experiment, (so) we’ve got to wait to see how it goes and see what the challenges of going out to a really remote location are,” he said. “We’ve already run into a few of them.”

More Red Door kegs could be headed to Clovis after the grand opening was a smashing success.

Based on a couple of Facebook posts after the grand opening was finished, it appears Red Door ran low on some unspecified supplies in Clovis, though they assured the new fans all is well and there is still beer available. It will just mark another change in what has been a constant stream of changes for the brewery since it opened years ago.

“We haven’t had a year where we didn’t have a bunch of big changes, either publicized or not,” Matt Biggs said. “This is sort of par for the course for us. We’re waiting for the year where we don’t have a ton of changes, and then I’ll be happy about that.

“It’s been going fine. Brewing is a crazy industry right now with all the taprooms and stuff. Breweries opening and closing, all that stuff. I think it’s going to get crazier. I think 2019 is going to be a huge year for probably less openings and more closings. But, I guess we’ll see how that shakes out, see who’s the competition at the end of the year.”

Well, all of us in the Crew will try to remain optimistic, but we still wish everyone in the ever-growing, ever-evolving industry plenty of luck. A big thanks to Matt and Matt for the interview. Hopefully they both get some rest after this past weekend.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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Brewer/owner John Masterson has built quite the impressive brewery in Truth or Consequences.

It’s not often that I get a chance to make it southward these days with a full work schedule taking up most of my time. But, as I still actively try to get out and see as much of New Mexico as I can, I recently found myself in the lower regions of our beautiful state visiting White Sands, passing through the Organ Mountains, and heading back up through Truth or Consequences.

As it turns out, I had just heard from a buddy who had made the trip out to Truth or Consequences for a dip at the Riverbend Hot Springs, that the brewery in town was making some excellent beer.

The Crew had previously done a “coming soon,” story on T or C Brewing Co., back in 2017, and since I was going to be in the area, it seemed like a great opportunity to do a follow-up/Look Back/Look Ahead Series story, but more importantly I wanted to find out if my buddy was right about the quality of the beer.

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From Stoutmeister: “The exterior signage is much improved since my visit in March 2018.”

We pulled into Truth or Consequences on a blustery, gray Sunday afternoon. Our poor pitbull mix, Memphis, was pretty irritated from being cooped up in the car all morning, so we took him for a walk around the aged city blocks of downtown T or C. At first glance, the scene appeared very similar to many other downtown districts in small-town New Mexico — large brick facades, old storefronts, long abandoned to time and wear. But, T or C was anything but abandoned. Upon closer inspection, there were vibrant colors in every window, signs outside each shop, shopkeepers beckoning you to come in and take a look at their wares from across the street, and bemused visitors just like myself walking around, window shopping, and taking it all in. To twist a turn of phrase, the lights were on, and someone was definitely home.

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It was an award-winning year for Rob Palmer and his namesake brewery.

I actually could not believe a year had passed since I last talked to brewer/owner Rob Palmer of Palmer Brewery about the year that was in the annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series. I mean, where the hell did that year go, anyway? But, yes, it was time again, so I corralled the ever-busy Rob and sat him down for a brief chat.

Right off the bat, I congratulated Rob on winning a bronze medal at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival in the collaboration beer category with Quarter Celtic Brewpub. I can confirm that Mocha Hipster Bomb is very good indeed, and now back on tap at the brewery. Rob said he is enjoying making collaborations because he enjoys working with the other brewers and the camaraderie involved with that. In April, he will be doing a different kind of collaboration beer with High and Dry Brewing, reportedly a wheat beer with some fun ingredients.

We discussed awards in general (Rob is not in favor of contests with large numbers of awards per category, as if everyone gets a participation award), the recent cancellation of the National IPA Challenge, and the sad demise of the Southwest Brewing News.

Just as a reminder, you can take beer home, not just the Left Turn spirits.

I asked about the status of the patio that he and Left Turn Distilling owner/distiller Brian Langwell have been wanting to add for a while. I was able to get a peek at some actual renderings, so there is some progress with that. It is their focus right now, and hopefully it will actually happen by this summer, Rob said. They need more space, period.

They are looking for a taproom site, but do not want to rush anything. It has to be right for them, Rob said. They are growing at their own pace, what demand allows, and are not worried too much about packaging. The current location is already in a very healthy beer area (literally the Brewery District), so they are looking at places that might be more underserved.

The jointly owned taproom space has required the hiring of more bartenders, but Rob is still mostly a one-dude show for brewing operations. Rob said that he needs to buy more fermenters so he can start double batching some beer; he keeps running out of the Low Card Lager, and that takes a long time to produce. They will most certainly need more capacity if they do open another location.

Rob wanted our readers to know about the success of their kitchen, Cocina Amada. Last year, they were really just getting it off the ground. He said the food is great and hugely popular. Rob added that they are so happy with the relationship they hope to get them over to the new taproom when that is established.

The staff is in constant motion at Palmer Brewery.

Left Turn and Palmer just made their first malt whiskey. Yep, malt whiskey. It’s currently barrel aging, so I did not get to try it (yet!). It doesn’t have to have an age statement, so Rob will just know when it’s ready by continuing to taste test it. There is also a bigger monster of a Cockness Monster (Scotch Ale) barrel aging right now at more than 9-percent ABV. The new spring beer menu has some fun beer cocktails on it as well, another direct way both sides of the business — the brewery and distillery — can work together. Rob said the percentage of sales varies. On some nights, the beer sells more than the cocktails, and sometimes it’s the reverse.

Thanks once again to Rob for his always amazing hospitality. It was a late afternoon on a Friday, so it was especially nice that he agreed to take time out to talk to me at such a busy time. But, that also meant I was able to hang out a bit with Brian and Chris Medina, assistant distiller/sales manager, a former subject of our “Unsung Heroes” series. That’s just a fantastic way to start a weekend!

Happy early St. Patrick’s Day to all. Be safe out there.

— AmyO

The future looks bright at Steel Bender Brewyard.

With regards to Steel Bender Brewyard and their amazing staff, sorry for the late write-up! Moving on with said group in mind, we move into our next entry in the annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series.

I was surprised, and extremely lucky, to get four major influences within the Steel Bender world to sit and talk with me about their ideas, goals, and successes over the past year, along with their insight in how they plan on taking their brand into the 2019 market with what could be called a steady, but reactive hand. Situated along Second Street, just south of the Paseo del Norte intersection, this brewery has had landmark success since inception, reminiscent of the early decade boom era for the craft beer industry.

This coming weekend, they will be celebrating their second anniversary. We highly encourage everyone to stop in and participate in the anniversary and holiday events, a full list of which is now available in a separate story.

For my visit, I was greeted by marketing director Shelby Chant and her husband and co-owner Ethan Chant, and we were soon joined by sales manager Adam Auden and head brewer Bob Haggerty. We grabbed a table in the south hall section of the restaurant, an area lined with oak of various intent, which made for a laid-back and easy backdrop to go over the year’s proceedings. To start things off, we dove into a review of 2018 in what I described as “in a nutshell/highlight” sense.

“Last year we were shocked at how busy we were, especially how quickly,” Ethan said. “Like opening up this room (south dining area), we weren’t supposed to, and expanding the kitchen, the amount of vessels we got — that was a shock. So we thought this year, 2018, it would mellow out or stabilize, and it’s been the opposite. Everything in terms of here has increased 20 percent from month to month compared to last year, and that’s been steady in terms of our sales.”

It has not just been the sales on site, as Steel Bender has already jumped into the packaging-and-distribution game.

“Our distribution, that has taken (off) so much quicker than we anticipated,” Ethan said. “And, we are really happy about and trying to navigate those waters, especially (with) who our distribution team is, which is Bill Hymen and Adam Auden, neither of (whom) has done any distribution or sales in that capacity. So that was a huge learning experience. I think that was actually really beneficial for us, because they are beer enthusiasts, and not necessarily salespeople, so they are able to communicate and explain our product really well and be able to understand different markets.”

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Toltec head brewer Kaylynn McKnight and general manager Keri Fleming are all smiles at the busy brewery.

Toltec Brewing is taking female empowerment to a new level for a local brewery in New Mexico. The promotion of Emma Gibson to executive chef this past week puts women in charge of almost every key position, as she joins head brewer Kaylynn McKnight, general manager Keri Fleming, and owner Diana Navarrette.

“I think we kind of bank on the fact that we’re an all-female team now,” Keri said. “Our chef is female, brewer, GM, the owner. It’s pretty empowering.”

It is just the latest positive development for the still relatively new brewpub tucked away on the west side of Albuquerque at 10250 Cottonwood Park NW, near the intersection of Old Airport Road and Cottonwood Drive. Keri and Kaylynn volunteered for the interview for Toltec’s entry in our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series last Friday, so we grabbed a table on the patio and recapped the first 10 months of Toltec, while also discussing what the future has in store.

“I think (it’s) been going really good,” Kaylynn said. “We were busy at first and then we kind of slowed down for a minute, and then it’s been really picking back up with a fury in the last couple months. It’s nice because it kind of gave me a chance, from selling out of my first batches really quick, it kind of gave me a chance when we got a little slower to refine things a little bit more, and make everything a little better. Now that it’s busy again, I’m getting used to keeping up with the pace of sales. I’m ready to keep brewing more beer.”

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Quarter Celtic’s Ror, left, and Brady McKeown hold up their mock check for Sierra Nevada’s Resilience IPA. The fine print reads, “QC Resilience check … slightly smaller than Marble’s.”

Quarter Celtic Brewpub owners Brady and Ror McKeown came prepared this time around. After our Look Back/Look Ahead Series entry last year got a bit, ahem, long-winded, they had a plan to keep things from going off the rails this time around. Fear not, however, they still managed to keep things appropriately off-beat, which is the norm for the brewpub on the corner of San Mateo and Lomas.

“(2018) flew by, so it’s amazing to me that in a couple weeks here we’ve got our three-year anniversary on St. Patrick’s Day,” Ror said. “It was super fast. I think our first year seemed like it took a long time. Now things are just ramping up, which is great.”

The past year was a big one for Quarter Celtic, with more medals on the wall and customers in the seats.

“Looking back on 2018, Brady did a great job on the beer,” Ror said. “He hit the trifecta. I’ll let him talk about that, but we’re pleased how it turned out.”

So what is the trifecta?

“In our mind (it was) the three big competitions we medaled in,” Ror said. “In the Great American Beer Festival we got bronze for the Mocha Hipster Bomb with Palmer (Brewery). Brady’s brewing it again, so keep an eye out. We got a silver at World Beer Cup for Pedro (O’Flanagan’s Mexican Lager). And then, North American Beer Awards, we got two, so we got a bronze for the MacLomas Stout and a silver for Pedro. In our minds, those were some of the bigger competitions where you can gauge where you brewery is at on a national level, even a world level, I guess. It’s nice, because a couple of those beers are our house beers.”

We do like the banners featuring Quarter Celtic’s many medals that now hang from the ceiling.

The good news is the one specialty beer on the list, Mocha Hipster Bomb, has just been brewed again.

“I’ll have that on more often than not,” Brady said. “A medal at GABF is always good, it doesn’t matter what it’s for. But, I mean, you look at the other winners, that’s really good company to be in.”

“On a side note, it was one of the first ones (announced), so I didn’t have to pop any antacids or anything,” Ror added.

The past year also saw a fair amount of experimentation for Brady in all of the newer styles of beer that are starting to catch the attention of the general public. Even for someone who has been brewing for almost 25 years, like Brady, there are still new styles to learn.

“It’s always fun to (try) a couple new styles,” Brady said. “The new hazy IPAs, the fruited goses, or Catalina sours, or whatever they call them now. It was fun to try new things. It’s always fun to learn something new.”

“There are some beers that people may not like, but Brady wants to try the style,” Ror added. “We’re going to throw it out there.”

“That’s the fun of a brewpub, we don’t have to put it in a can,” Brady said. “That is fun. That’s sort of the whole M.O. of Quarter Celtic — fun. It’s a fun place to be, a fun place to hang out, and it translates into the beer, too.”

Heck, there is even a sign about all of that adorning the south wall behind the bar.

Somehow we just noticed this wonderful sign.

The brothers McKeown have kept things upbeat since their days together at Canteen Brewhouse, and even long before that.

“For me, I always look forward to coming to work with Brady, because (he’s) a fun person to hang out with, keeps things light,” Ror said. “We definitely have a nice rapport going, 50 years in the making.

“Then life’s been good, because we have a great staff. Our customer base is fantastic. It really is refreshing coming to work, which is kind of a phrase that many people don’t put together.”

The beer, however, remains key to making sure the public is enjoying the pub as much as the staff. Brady said there have been a few tweaks here and there with the equipment.

“It may not make it easier to brew, but hopefully we’re making the beer better, which is always the focus,” he said. “Now we’ve got an RO (reverse osmosis) system, and a new cold liquor tank, so now we get the fermenter back that we were using for cold water.”

Those minor fixes/upgrades might not seem like much, but in the end it all comes down to the pending addition of the first offsite taproom for Quarter Celtic.

As we noted in a story last month, the sign is up for the future taproom on Juan Tabo. (Photo courtesy of Quarter Celtic)

“That kind of leads us to looking forward, because some of the things we’re doing is getting ready for doubling the number of barrels that we’re going to be selling as Quarter Celtic,” Ror said. “Early on, we got the wholesale license so we could get our name out there. We still have some capacity in this brewery, but right now we’re in the process of kind of pulling some of the wholesale back. Because we know if we keep wholesale where it was and we open the taproom, then this brewery wouldn’t keep up.”

“Somebody would be disappointed, and eventually many people (would as well),” Brady added. “Just mathematically looking at what we sold, what we sold wholesale, what we sold in house, looking at the seats we’re going to have in the new place, we figured we should give people warning that we’re pulling out so we can supply our customers.”

The taproom will be located at 1930 Juan Tabo NE, between Indian School and Menaul, on the east side of the street. It will be about 3,000 square feet, which is smaller than the main location, but odds are it will be just as busy.

As for when it will be open, Ror said he is hopeful that things will be up and running before the summer.

“Probably early May, (but) you can always throw a date out there (and hope),” Ror said. “The building, we love the location, but we’re doing a lot of infrastructure type things that needed to happen to it. It just slows the process down.”

“It saves a lot of money, though, when Ror does it all himself,” Brady added.

Essentially, the space has now been cleared out and prepared for the eventual build-up to becoming functional.

“We’ve got Lee (Wilson) coming in here this week, so things should speed up,” Ror said, referring to another of Quarter Celtic’s owners. “We’ve got all the dirty, time-consuming things out of the way. Now it’s just trying to turn it into what we think an Irish pub should be like. That’s a little stressful, because we’re going to turn a strip mall into an Irish pub.”

There will be a line out here leading into the brewery for the anniversary/St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

While Ror has been away, Brady and the staff at the main location have been busy preparing for the anniversary party that starts March 16 and continues through the infamous Irish holiday.

“On that one, we’re going to do a two-day event again,” Ror said. “So this is going to be Saturday-Sunday, and pretty much mirror itself (from last year). We’re bringing in the pipers, the dancers, the band. It will be set up pseudo-beerfest style like we’ve done the past two years, which just from a volume (standpoint) is the only way we can pull it off. Otherwise there would be three-hour waits.

“Inside will still be full service and probably a really long wait. Outside it’s fend for yourself, get your own beer, we will have food out there. You may get to sit down, you may have to stand. But, it’s worked well the last couple years. People have enjoyed it. They understand that those two days, you’re not going to be able to come in and get the nachos, because you’ve got to slim the menu, too. Anything Celtic you can do is on that limited menu for those two days.”

Brady will have a few special beers available, as he has in the past.

“We saved some of the Irish Handcuffs, (barrel) aged, as well as Kill or be Kilt,” Brady said. “We’ve only got a couple kegs of the stout, so that will go fast. But, definitely, we have more beers (ready) than we have taps right now. We’re going to try to get the Mocha Hipster on for the anniversary. … Hopefully we’ll have the Clark (Hazy IPA) back on.”

Clark should replace the popular Never Cry Wolf-Dragon DIPA, which is running low this week, so go over and help drink it up, if that is your preferred style.

In the end, everything happening now is about gearing up for the taproom opening later this year.

“Basically for us, looking forward is just the logistics of two places,” Ror said. “Before we were always here. I mean, Brady is still always here, but when it comes to the management side of it, I’m out, Lee’s out, but we’ve turned it over to capable hands with Allison (York, general manager) and Caroline (Marquez, assistant general manager) running the show here. Now we’re focused on QC 2. Once that one is up and running, we’ll be back and forth.”

We honestly have no idea what they are doing with those Go Fish (and Chips) cards.

Oh, and do not fret, once QC 2 is open, Ror and Brady and the rest of their team will get back to making those wonderful, wacky YouTube videos. Who knows, maybe the Crew will even show up in one of those at some point. Or, maybe there will be one that honors the movie Shaun of the Dead, since several of our friends frequently refer to Quarter Celtic as “The Winchester.”

For now, we just suggest everyone head over to QC for a nice cold pint, and wait for this whole thing to blow over.

A huge thanks to Ror and Brady for the interview, the laughs, and a pint of No, You’re a Dort.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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Brewer Alexander Pertusini has worked hard to find his comfort zone at Chili Line Brewing.

During the past year, Chili Line Brewing has been busy. I mean, really busy. Between turning their taproom into a downtown nightlife destination, pouring at all the local festivals, and getting their brand-new location ready to open, they’ve been BUSY. Thankfully, brewer Alexander Pertusini was kind enough to sit down and speak with the Dark Side Brew Crew about the year before and what’s coming down the tracks in 2019 for our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series.

It was 6:30 on a Wednesday evening when I walked into an already crowded bar. I felt like I was late to the party. Pertusini greeted me as he poured beer for a good mixture of what sounded like regulars and folks visiting from out of town. After pouring me one of three stouts on the menu, he joined me at an empty table, which was becoming a rare commodity as the minutes passed. It was already a bit of a different vibe from the last time I’d visited “professionally,” I should say.

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Seats were at a premium at Chili Line on a weeknight.

And then, I tasted the beer. A solid stout, heavy on flavor, delivering on the promised premise of cocoa and lactose (by the name, Tio Coco Milk Stout), great mouthfeel, and very light on the smoke. Hmm.

Pertusini was soon brought a beer by a gentleman I would later recognize from Breaking Bad and other well-known screen roles. And, as soon as I could wrap my brain around all the pleasant changes and tweaks at work around me, I thumbed on both of my recorders and looked over my laundry list of questions. Though I was already getting excited about the direction Chili Line seemed to be heading in, I wanted to know how their year went.

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The little brewery that could has become a popular destination in Southeast Albuquerque.

The great neighborhood pub experiment is rolling along in several areas of Albuquerque, perhaps most notably at 529 Adams St. NE, where High and Dry Brewing has gained a loyal following in just one year of operation. While operating the smallest brewing system (1 barrel) in town, brewer/owner Andrew Kalemba and his staff have managed to nonetheless make a name for themselves in a crowded craft beer scene.

I caught up with Andrew on Monday afternoon at the brewery, where he was still hard at work even though it was closed to customers, for our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series.

“2018, it went by fast, that’s for sure,” Andrew said. “We can’t complain. We have what I’d like to call consistent business all year. The neighborhood really showed up and supported us. The bottom line is we hit our year one business case, which is a fantastic thing to celebrate. I’m not sure I got to sit down and enjoy it during the birthday weekend, but that was an absolutely awesome milestone for us to be able to do that in the first year.”

Andrew moved to Albuquerque from Austin, which is filled with small breweries that serve as popular gathering spots in the midst of residential neighborhoods. He took that inspiration into building High and Dry, taking over a former tattoo parlor space just off Lomas Boulevard. It has worked out mostly as planned so far, with plenty of people walking over from their homes, or making a short drive.

“There’s butts in seats, and that’s awesome,” Andrew said. “What’s nice, too, even at our anniversary (party), we still have new people coming in and discovering it, even people who live in the neighborhood. That’s kind of flattering. We kind of like being that. We also have people walking in and hitting on a lot of the things you said. It’s the neighborhood spot, it’s the neighborhood’s living room. Come mosey on over here and hang out. That’s resonating with people and people are getting it without us having to beat the idea into everyone’s head.”

Of course, with the development of such a strong customer base, it also means Andrew has to work hard to keep the beers flowing out of his 1-barrel brewhouse.

“I think the last time we talked I was right in the thick of chaos, when we had some product recalls, and spilled five barrels down the drain, and then we also figured out how to break the sewer line,” he said. “It was rough for a while. Obviously, the guest taps and the collaboration model is really important to sustaining that. One of the awesome things about New Mexico is we have reciprocity, and that’s always been key to our (business) model.”

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