Archive for the ‘Look Back/Look Ahead Series 2016-17’ Category

Drafty Kilt has started to find its audience after opening in the slow season.

For our final entry in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series (scroll to the bottom for more), I stopped at Drafty Kilt Brewing this week to talk to owner/brewer Mike Campbell. Drafty Kilt was the last brewery to open in 2016, popping up in November, just in time to hit the slow season around the holidays. Since then, however, things have started to take off for the brewery.

“We opened the week of Thanksgiving, so the first five weeks were open had holidays and snow days,” Mike said. “It wasn’t until the end of January that we started getting into a routine where people start getting off at 5 (p.m.) and this is what we can expect. It was a weird time to open. It’s always January and February are generally slow for the industry. But, day by day, we get known more and more.”

One way that Drafty Kilt got its name out there was through a bit of a non-traditional (for breweries) website.

“We did Groupon, which seems to have had a pretty good … I’d rate it a success,” Mike said. “It introduced a lot of people (to us) who typically don’t even read your blog or the Southwest Brewing News. They like beer, but they’re not in the culture. They heard of us only through Groupon.”

The wall art is unique among breweries.

The brewery has also been adding weekly events, including Geeks Who Drink every Tuesday, sponsoring a dart league team that competes every Wednesday, an open mic/jam session every Thursday, and then live music, be it just a guitar player or a full band, every Friday and Saturday.

Drafty Kilt is also working on a fundraiser with a local motorcycle club. Mike said it is the same club that just had a member shot and killed at a car wash on the West Side recently. That event with the club, which will now be in support of his family, will take place April 8.

Of course, events and fundraisers are one thing, but the backbone of every brewery is the beer itself.

“The beers have been received very well,” Mike said. “We had to make second batches, of course. We’re going to start some distribution, very small at first due to the lack of kegs that I have.”

Mike said his beers could soon be on tap at Sister downtown, Las Ristras in Corrales, plus at least one more bar and another couple of breweries.

The delicious Obliviscaris Stout is a burly throwback to the stouts of old.

Overall, as a veteran brewer, Mike said he has been happy with his beers to date. It has not gone totally according to plan, however.

“The (McWabbit) Pale Ale had, that was our second brew, and we had a stuck mash,” Mike said. “I don’t think I’m going to be able to exactly duplicate it again, but it tasted a lot better than I was afraid it would. Otherwise, I’m proud of the beers. They came out nice, crisp, no off-flavors (or) characteristics. The (Obliviscaris) Oatmeal Stout is nice and filling, easy going. The smoke in the (Wee Beastie) Scottish Ale surprises some people.”

The Groundskeeper Willie Cream Ale and Campbell Toe IPA have rounded out the initial lineup. Some additional beers are in the works.

“I’ve got the red carbonating,” Mike said. “We’re going to name it in recognition of both its Irish roots and the New Mexico, you know how natives ask you a question and then end it with a question? They say ‘McRojo or No?’”

After that, Mike said he hopes to have a specific brew for the warmer months.

“I want to brew a hefe soon, but I’m also having to get back and double up (on batches),” he said. “I’ve got to brew another IPA (soon). I’ve got the cream ale and Scottish going out to distributorship.

“You’re already looking at next month is the (soonest) I can have another beer on tap. Then it will seem like the next month is July. It’s going by pretty quick.”

Show that Scottish pride!

Drafty Kilt will be at a number of upcoming festivals, including the Blazin’ Brewfest in Las Cruces on May 6, the ABQ Blues & Brews on May 28, at least two of the Summerfests, and the Fourth of July festival at the Balloon Fiesta Park. That, in turn, should further help get the Drafty Kilt name out there to the beer geeks and the general public.

If you get the chance, make sure to stop by the brewery at 4814 Hardware NE. It is just south of McLeod and west of San Mateo, right around the corner from Movies 8.

A big thanks to Mike for the interview and the pint of stout!

* * * * *

This will mark the final official entry for our Look Back/Look Ahead Series in 2016-17. For a variety of reasons, we were unable to get to every brewery this time around. If by some chance another story does come to fruition, we will still post it here, but as more of a standalone feature.

Thanks for reading all of these. We will have a new ongoing series starting soon, so keep an eye out for it.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Flix Brewhouse has become a popular destination for beer lovers and movie fans alike.

Before I disappeared down the rabbit hole of covering the high school basketball state tournament, I went back over to Flix Brewhouse to chat with head brewer Will Moorman and assistant brewer Marisa Bernal for their entry in our Look Back/Look Ahead Series. Flix has only been open since November, but it has already made its mark on the local scene.

“It has become a major place to go on the West Side,” said Marisa, an Albuquerque native. “There didn’t use to be anything out here.”

Flix is, first and foremost, a movie theater, but unlike all the rest on either side of the river, it is the only one that brews and serves its own beer. Will, who hails from Indiana, has quickly learned just what that means to the residents of ABQ.

“This town likes to drink, this town likes to drink,” he said twice for emphasis. “It seems that everyone is very hop-forward (too).”

Even in a slow season for movies, the crowds have kept Will and Marisa busy brewing almost every day. Flix offers up six house beers and a rotating series of five seasonals, plus it has many more guest taps, featuring a mix of local and national craft beers.

It is with those seasonals, though, where the brewers get to have the most fun.

“I’ve been learning a lot about our brewery, just getting our system dialed in, figuring out what we can do,” Will said. “We’ve had a couple of rather big brews that we did, a Belgian quad and an American barleywine. Just figuring out how much we could actually put our system through. That was kind of fun.”

As for Marisa, who started out in the wine industry out in California, moving to brewing has already taught her “a lot.”

“I’ve done my first solo brews,” she said. “I’m just learning the whole system. I love barrels, I love barrel aging.”

There be barrels up there alongside the serving tanks!

The barrel-aging program at Flix is already underway. Patrons can see the barrels upstairs above the bar, in the same room as the serving tanks.

“We’ve got three Chardonnay barrels, two 30-year-old Mexican port barrels, a couple Breckenridge bourbon barrels, and a rye barrel,” Will said. “So we’re tinkering around with that. We’ve got some funky stuff happening upstairs.”

The Rebel Yell Porter, brewed back in December for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, is in one barrel. The January Embers Barleywine, a personal favorite among the seasonals to date, occupies another. There are also some kettle sours aging away.

In the case of the barrels, Marisa has taken charge.

“I’ve been learning a lot, barrel-wise, from Marisa,” Will said. “She got to play with a lot more barrels than I’ve seen.”

“I got to rebuild an entire barrel,” she added. “Three years in the wine industry paid off. It was a good time.”

While the barrels are doing their thing, Flix has already picked up its first medal at a beer competition, with the seasonal Brown Basilisk earning the honor.

The brewhouse has been getting a workout since Flix opened.

“We picked up a (bronze) medal at the Best of Craft Beer Awards for our brown ale, which is amazing,” Will said. “I’m super ecstatic about that.”

Will said they will be sending off beers to be judged at the North American Beer Awards next, with an eye on the Great American Beer Festival in the fall.

In the meantime, more unique seasonals are either on tap or on the way. Mr. Cutty Fingers, a Loganberry IPA, debuted over the weekend with the movie Logan. It will be joined by another newcomer this weekend, though this will not have a movie tie-in.

“We have a saison coming out, Saison DeWalt, which is in honor of the original GM at the first Flix Brewhouse, who tragically passed away of a heart attack at a very young age,” Will said. “So every year every Flix does a saison that’s in his honor. That will be out on the 11th (of March).”

Will also brewed a beer he affectionately named Bug Base with an old friend from Indiana. That beer will be entered in the pro-am competition at the upcoming Santa Fe Open. Bug Base is basically a base beer that the brewers can infuse with different strains of brettanomyces and such inside barrels.

“I’m excited to see what our bugs do,” Will said. “They’ve been bubbling away nicely. They smell great.”

Yup, more barrels are upstairs!

In addition to continually working to improve the beer, Will and Marisa are also doing their homework for some additional certification.

“Our main focus right now, apart from brewing beer and producing beer, is getting BJCP certified,” he said. “We’ve been talking to a couple judges, a couple home brew groups out here, and a then some of the brewers that I really admire. … I’m super young at this, I’ve got a lot to learn. We both do, really. I figure that’s a great way to improve the quality of our product.”

This is the time of year to do it, since Logan is just the start of the major movies coming out in the next few months.

“We’re in our slow season right now and it’s still pretty heavy,” Will said. “From what I understand, things should slow down again in August, just based on new movie releases. But then we’ve got the summertime with kids who have nothing to do, and parents who just need to drink as a result.”

Those parents have offered up mostly positive reviews of the beer so far, which Will said he appreciated, but at the same time the best feedback comes from his peers in the business.

“Feedback is hard to get objectively from people,” Will said. “Which is fine, it’s nice to hear, but as far as super objective (feedback), I’ve been talking to a couple other brewers around here, taking my beer around. I’ve gotten some good feedback. There’s a couple things I’ve been tinkering with that will obviously help the quality of the beer. We’re still young. I’m happy with the way our beer has turned out thus far, but I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, totally satisfied.”

That is all one can ask for from any brewer, so it would seem that residents from across Albuquerque, not just the West Side, are in good hands at Flix.

Beer gifts are the best gifts, aren’t they?

Thank you to Will and Marisa for taking time out of their day to chat, and for the crowler (yes, they have those) of the barleywine.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The sky has been the limit for Dialogue since it opened a few months ago.

The sky has been the limit for Dialogue since it opened a few months ago.

It can be very easy to miss Dialogue, a uniquely designed and presented brewery, as it sits nestled between older warehouses and industrial complexes on the corner of 1st Street and Kinley Ave. Once you have found the entrance, however, your senses are in for quite the artistic treat, as local works cover the walls in contrast to the modern and classic steel work that make up the revitalized warehouse/now-brewery and bar space.

I had a chance to sit down with Eliot Salgado, managing partner of Dialogue Brewing, to discuss how things have gone to date. Dialogue opened its doors to the public last September, and though the business itself is still relatively new, the brimming ambition and pride for excellence was noticeable in this interview for the Look Back/Look Ahead Series.

“2016 was exciting, challenging, and emotional,” Salgado said. “We went from conception to hiring Ian (Graham, head brewer), to building the brewery and building the taproom at a very rapid pace. It was one of the hardest things most of us have ever done. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. For me, personally, I’m very lucky to have a supportive family who was able to deal with 13-to-14-hour days for quite a while. All in all, I think we had a challenging start, but it’s definitely something we can be proud of. Dialogue is continuing to change from the artwork to the floor plan. We are still finding who we are, and we continue to change and evolve.”

The brewing equipment has been put to work quite often.

The brewing equipment has been put to work quite often.

Salgado also shared some of the obstacles Dialogue has faced since opening.

“We have the same challenges every brewery does,” he said. “No brew day is eight hours. Nothing is ever easy or convenient. We certainly didn’t expect it to be either. So far, I would say that we are meeting our expectations. Our sales slowed down during the winter, as we had anticipated them to. As it’s been warming up, our sales have been trending upwards very quickly.”

The Berliner Weisse, in particular, was noted as a fan favorite.

“Our brewer, Ian, loves brewing lagers,” Salgado said. “So during the winter, when we knew business would slow down a bit, we ended up lagering a bunch of beers.”

Those lagers have included the Helles Good and Dark Helmet, hitting the lager spectrum from pale to black.

Variety has been the spice of life when it comes to the beer styles at Dialogue.

Variety has been the spice of life when it comes to the beer styles at Dialogue.

On top of getting prepared for the coming spring and summer months, Dialogue has been busy competing nationally as well.

“We are super excited!” Salgado said. “Our Belgian Citrus IPA (reached) the Elite Eight in the Specialty Category in the National IPA Challenge, so we’ll know more soon about how we do and if we will continue to move on.”

After the interview, Dialogue finished as runner-up, which is still a big win for a young brewery.

“We pride ourselves on brewing unique and original beers,” Salgado said. “We want to continue to push the trend and be a part of the current beer crowd. We never want to detract from the high quality standards that we have for ourselves and that our consumers have.”

Though it may only be a couple months into 2017, we continued on with our interview in regards to the coming months and year ahead, starting with a summary of general goals for Dialogue Brewing as a whole.

“Our goals: less crying. Is that a goal?” Salgado said with a chuckle. “We definitely want to win some awards. We want a solid year making customers happy, and brewing high quality, unique beers.”

Expect plenty more art and more beer in 2017.

Expect plenty more art and more beer in 2017.

In addition to focusing on getting further established, the Dialogue crew has a few more ideas cooked up.

“We will be in as many local festivals as we can,” Salgado said. “We are trying to be a part of the (New Mexico) Brewers Guild stuff, although we do recognize that space can sometimes be limited. We are going to be at Tart at Heart on the 15th of April. We are also in the early planning stages of planning our own festival here. We want to do a tacos and tarts idea, where we have a bunch of taco trucks out here, and ask some of  the local breweries to bring a sour beer.”

More big moves are also in the works, holding true to the concept formed during the beginnings of the business. There will be a focus on customer favorites, and also large-scale work with Brett and wild ale styles, with the implementation of new fermenters aimed toward facilitating the additional bacteria.

“We don’t want a beer drinker to come in here for the first time ever and be unimpressed by the selection,” Salgado said. “So, we have a variety of beer styles from our golden all the way to a dubbel.”

In line with that concept, Dialogue continues striving forward with customer service through education.

“All of our bartenders are certified beer servers through the cicerone program, and they are all trained to educate customers on beer styles and taste to try to find the perfect beer for each person,” Salgado said.

Cheers to a great start for Dialogue! (And get some Scarlet Beh-Gose while you can.)

Cheers to a great start for Dialogue! (And get some Scarlet Beh-Gose while you can.)

The customer is a strong influence behind much of Dialogue Brewing’s focus in regards to new ideas that are soon to come to fruition this year. One such idea is Hop Education, which is focused on educating and testing customers on their knowledge of common hop profiles, accomplished through the substitution of the hops in a single-hop recipe used for the base in each brew.

“One of the things we really want to do is engage with our customers,” Salgado said.

One of the things they plan to do this summer is to throw more events on their patio.

“We want to have more bands this year,” Salgado said. “We have a stage outside, and a patio to accommodate live bands, so we want to get as much use out of it as possible during the warmer months.”

2016 was certainly a noteworthy year for Dialogue Brewing. From its grand opening in September, to fulfilling their goals by providing unique brews to their growing customer base, Dialogue has continued to confidently strive forward. We look forward to seeing what 2017 has in store for Dialogue. One thing is for sure, this young brewery is already making its mark on the local beer scene. If you have not stopped by Dialogue Brewing, we suggest you do!

Cheers!

— Shawna

These were some seriously happy brewery staffers after they brought home a fairly major award.

The Boxing Bear team came home from the 2016 Great American Beer Festival with two gold medals and one major award, Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year!

At long last, our Look Back/Look Ahead Series entry for Boxing Bear is complete. Stoutmeister and I sat down with head brewer Justin Hamilton a while back to discuss the Year of the Bear, when the beers and the medals and the awards flowed endlessly. We then looked forward to all that is to come in 2017.

Solo: We’re here again, how is this a year?

Justin: Oh, man, where do I start?

Solo: Well, I remember where we left off.

Justin: Well, it’s obviously been an absolutely insane year for us. Starting early in the year with the North American Beer Awards, moving into the National IPA challenge, then moving into World Beer Cup, then moving into (the New Mexico) IPA Challenge and to GABF. It’s been great. Obviously it’s been pretty crazy and we’ve just been happy with our ability to keep up, not only locally, but nationally with what’s been going on in the beer scene for a while. First of all, to do well, that’s what every brewery wants is to get some accolades, but the fact that we were able to do it in our second year of being open, I mean we just had our second anniversary in July and turned around and got Mid-Sized Brewers and Brewpub of the Year in October. We couldn’t be happier with our run over the last couple of years.

And, when we left off talking last year we were saying that we had that silver medal from GABF for the Chocolate Milk Stout and we wanted to continue progressing. Well, we turned around and won gold for that at World Beer Cup, and then turned around and won another gold for that at GABF. It’s pretty awesome, that beer alone has done us really well, but the fact that we were able to show people that we weren’t just this one-trick pony, that’s one of the best things that we gained out of 2016. That people know that you make a great sweet stout, but you also know we can make an awesome IPA and you also know that we can make a double red ale now, and that they are worth coming out to drink. I think that’s been something that has done wonders for our image and our business in general. It’s been awesome for us. So, we’ve had a pretty good time, it’s been good to show people what we’ve been amping up for and totally keeping our nose to the grind. Our staff is really committed to quality and I think we kind of showed Albuquerque and the world that. That is our goal.

Solo: Quality, responsible growth, and all of those things paying dividends on the groundwork that you laid. All of the equipment additions and all of the logistics.

Justin: Yeah, I think the thing that’s made 2016 interesting for Boxing Bear is that we’ve been growing accolades, but it’s interesting to (still) see us as a young brewery. We’re kind of doing this weird thing where we are growing as a pub and as a presence at the same time. We did a lot of improvements on our pub and our patio this year. Since we opened, gaining the money for five new TVs, gaining the money to work on our patio, it’s nice to get the pub and everything else up to par where we originally wanted it to be. Not to mention, we are still working on that stuff, we are constantly reinvesting all of our money into either pub or brewery equipment.

It’s interesting to see that varied on if you compare us to someone maybe like Marble, who (won) Small Brewery of the Year two years ago. They were pretty established by the time they got that. Maybe it is a pretty similar kind of thing, progress not only in the beer but offering something to the community. It would be different if we opened our doors and people knew we had good beer, but we really didn’t put much into the front of house or the experience we are offering our customers. It’s kind of been a weird thing to try and grow those at the same time. I think that’s something that’s always on everybody’s mind. For the fact that we were so successful as far as accolades go, it kind of increases the pressure on us needing to make sure that the pub is to par with what people expect out of a craft brewery and out of a brewpub. That’s been one of the hardest parts for us is finding the money to make the improvements that you would expect from someone who has the caliber of beer that we do. But, dealing with a large pub, dealing with the money issue, trying to get the money to make the pub look nice and all of that stuff, it’s like these little steps. So, a big part of 2016 has been that growth on both ends. It’s like burning a candle at both ends and trying to meet in the middle somewhere.

Amid a sea of people taking pics on their cell phones, the Boxing Bear brewing team holds their NMIPAC trophy aloft!

Boxing Bear claimed its first New Mexico IPA Challenge trophy back in July.

Stoutmeister: I know when you guys first opened you had some issues with the front of house staff, this year Albuquerque the Magazine gave you, sharing with Marble, staff of the year. That has to also be a bit gratifying.

Justin: It’s a big thing for us knowing that we are looking at issues between management, staff, and ownership. What can we do better? What are the parts that are going to make us (better)? We know we’ve got good beer, that’s for me and my brew staff to worry about continuing with and growing. But, we also know that we have had issues with serving like everybody has, or just education of staff or getting everyone on the same page. So, it’s definitely been good to reaffirm that our hard work that we’ve been doing, like we said, front and back of house has been paying off a little bit. People have been noticing that when we try to give excellent service that even our cooks are talking to the customers about beer and it’s stuff that we try to take pride in.

We try to make sure that everyone on staff is willing to go that extra mile, and that’s definitely something that is not easy. It’s hard finding competent staff, and also people that are willing to work very hard and have the same passions for beer that you do even when they’re not making the beer like you do, they are just serving it. But, I think that we’ve hopefully found that balance point and that’s what we want to continue to do is to be educating our staff who will educate the public that will come back to us. We want to continue having the best staff we possibly can.

That’s constantly on our mind, how the pub is doing, what’s going on in the pub, how are people seeing us. We take reviews on Facebook and Yelp and all of that stuff really seriously. Unfortunately, a lot of people that do reviews do it only if they have a bad experience, but when that happens we try to address it. We try to talk to people, we try to let them know, hey, give us another chance, what the issue was, we can fix that. That’s always an important part of any business is customer relations.

Solo: I’ve noticed a definite uptick in bicyclists coming here over the summer, myself included, and it’s nice to see that initial vision coming to fruition.

Justin: Yeah, and that goes back to making improvements, that’s something we’ve always wanted to do and you’ll probably see that in the spring or summer (this) year is working on increasing that local traffic. And, we get so much from bike traffic. Every day I see a team of bicyclists riding through our parking lot and half of the time they stop here. Those are all things that we are aware of. We need more bike racks, we need more of an ability to chain your bike up, because we do get a lot of lot of that traffic. We have a horse hitch back there, which is great for some people. We knew when we opened that we were going to have to appease the bike crowd and that is something that we are still working on, actually. Putting it all together, then finding the funds to do that when you’re trying to find the funds to grow your brewery.

It’s this wild game of chess; it’s like playing chess with 30-some odd people all involved. It’s like a weird, terrible game of Risk where you’re moving these pieces and looking at what everybody else is doing, where you make one wrong move and you could just get wiped off the board, regardless of product. We are constantly analyzing the market and trying to figure out what’s our niche, what’s our next move, and it gets a little tiring, honestly. It’s hard to stay relevant in a world of huge craft brewing dominance. We’ve had a great year, but we don’t want to sit back and be comfortable and relax at this point. We want to progress even farther, whatever that means. Whether it means not winning medals, but knowing that our quality products are out there and people are enjoying them, that means almost as much as any medal does. So, it’s trying to find that fine line, but we definitely are making those adjustments, I think.

The second annual BearFest was a big hit.

The second annual BearFest was a big hit.

Solo: So, this year’s BearFest versus last year’s BearFest.

Justin: We had similar issues with volume where we got a little bit better. We expanded it enough to where we were able to grow a bunch. We added more vendors, more food trucks, so it worked out really well. I think last year’s BearFest, being that it was our first year, we had little issues like bathrooms, where we didn’t know how many we should have. Going into this year we said let’s triple that amount and I never saw a line this year. I think we’re getting better at understanding the little things. I’ve been doing beer festivals for the last 10 years of my life and I have an idea of how they should go, but it’s the little things like that that you don’t really understand. Do we have enough food trucks? Do we have enough bathrooms? Do we have enough tent space or enough tables to sit at so that people can enjoy their food? That’s all stuff that we had a better idea of and it was a little bit more work, but I think it paid off.

It was again one of those events where we pulled (in) a lot of people here from all over the city, people that wouldn’t even necessarily come to the brewery if they had the time. So, it’s nice to swing that crowd over on this side of town. I saw a lot of people that I’d seen here maybe once before if that. So, it’s always a good opportunity to bring people over here. I think we did a pretty good job this year. It was bigger, and we’ll see what happens with next year and how we decide to proceed with that.

Stoutmeister: In terms of the back, how many pieces of equipment did you guys upgrade this year?

Justin: Oh, man, so we added this last 20-barrel fermenter and a 20-barrel server that we just got. For reference, we’ve never had equipment that we’ve put in right into use that quickly. I mean we literally turned around, we’re brewing right into that thing the very next week, which is fine, but it’s not a position we’ve been put into before. We’re already looking into where our next purchases will be because we know that we are in our slow season right now and come March, April, May of (this) year it’s going to be another game of where we are going to be placing those investments. More than likely you’re going to see more brewing equipment and front of house renovations, all stuff that hopefully we will have the cash for to procure.

Stoutmeister: Of course the other big development that’s still ongoing is back there (the space formerly occupied by Southwest Grape and Grain). So, what all is going on back there?

Justin: We are going to be doing a few things. Our front of house kitchen, which is pretty small, we are going to be moving a lot of that stuff to the back. This is going to allow us a little more room up front and we might be putting a small cooler for bomber sales (it is now in place) and things like that in there. One of the best things that’s going to happen back there is having more cold storage space. That’s what we are putting together now is that we will have an extra cold room back there, which is mainly going to be a wholesaling cold room so that we can start stocking regularly. Once that’s built, we will have the ability to do bombers on the regular.

Right now, the storage issue is the biggest thing for us because if we produce a pallet of bombers, that’s going in our cold room next to all of our beer, next to our servers and hops and stuff. It’ll be nice to be able to have a variety of bombers, maybe one or two different styles at any given point, and also have plenty of kegs for our wholesale guys to move and the extra storage for hops and everything else we need to store cold will be a huge step for us in 2017. So, the kitchen back there, some cold room space, we’ve already got some offices back there, so that’s pretty much what’s going to happen with that. That’s our goal for next year is to try to put out bombers on the regular at least once a month if we can, of a variety that people will hopefully like.

The triple punch of Chocolate Milk Stout, left, Bear Knuckle IPA, and The Red Glove.

The triple punch of Chocolate Milk Stout, left, Bear Knuckle IPA, and The Red Glove.

Stoutmeister: A major question I’m always getting for you guys, especially since GABF, is when are you going to open a taproom on the east side?

Justin: That’s something we’re definitely looking into. Like I said, it’s this game of chess. We want to open a taproom, but we want it to be a proper taproom. We don’t want to just settle for a space, we want to make sure that it’s got everything we need, that it’s got parking, seating, and a good location preferably on that side of town. That being said, where do we find this place, how do we find the money to capitalize on that? We also know that once that happens our production is going to go way up. So, it’s preparation for all of that stuff, going back to that cold room, that’s going to really help with that. I think it’s all stuff that our customers and patrons (and) fans will see.

I can’t necessarily say it’s going to be 2017, but it is definitely something that we are constantly looking at, when to make that move. It’s more of a matter of when, as opposed to if. We look to the other breweries that have been in similar positions to see what their moves are. I’m not necessarily saying that we will follow them, but it’s interesting to see Bosque’s taproom’s evolution to a production facility. Similar? That’s potential. Who knows? Maybe we open a production facility before a taproom, or it’s both, I don’t know. We want to be sure that we’re making the right move. I don’t want to be stuck in a building that won’t move traffic, or we can’t get parking. We got really lucky when we found this building and we really liked it and it’s an amazing spot, so we want to do the same thing with a taproom.

Stoutmeister: Anything else that’s coming up on the schedule for 2017?

Justin: There’s so much going on, honestly. We want to show people that, yeah, we had a great year in 2016, but we don’t want to just sit back and be complacent. We want to continue securing our spot locally, nationally, internationally as some of the best beer there is out there. That’s my goal, that’s the goal of the back of house and the front of house to educate and to really hone in on what Boxing Bear is. 2017 is going to bring some interesting changes. I think you’re going to see a lot of the newer breweries getting settled a little better. Places like Quarter Celtic are going to start shining and finding their spot. I think a lot of people that weren’t wholesaling are going to start wholesaling, so the fight for tap handles out on the market is going to be fierce.

So, that’s something we are going to be addressing in 2017 is how do we continue to gain tap handles in such a fierce market. It’s probably going to entail seeing a lot more of our award-winning beers on the regular. You’re probably going to see more Chocolate Milk Stout, more Red Glove in production. That’s something we want to gear towards is that we’ve got these great award winners, and now we have just got to keep them out on the market as much as possible. Normally we would try to fit Chocolate Milk Stout or Red Glove in where we could, but we are going to start scheduling it (and) saying we need to have a batch a month or every other month at the least. Those beers that people really want, that we’ve done well with, will be more readily available. The people that are coming in from out of town looking for our taproom or our handles will be able to try the beers that we’ve done well with.

Stoutmeister: So, if you like this, well, try this kind of mentality.

Justin: It’s been one of those plays with supply and demand that we’ve been working on and we want to stay relevant, but we also need to give people what they want. Trying to play the market man, it’s a wild game out there. Our ability to put out the beers that we are known for and keep us relevant in people’s eyes and keep accounts active and happy too, that’s a lot of it, is making people happy.

Solo: Feed them beer, they will be relatively happy.

You had one job for this photo, Jeff. One job! At least it was safe at the brewery.

Boxing Bear’s Justin Hamilton, center, shows off his gold medal from the World Beer Cup with Nexus’ Kaylynn McKnight, while poor Jeff Erway left his back at La Cumbre.

Justin: We’re not going to have World Beer Cup again this year because it’s every two years. We’ll be back entering North American Beer Awards and the IPA Challenges again and the local IPA Challenge and GABF again. We’ll be keeping our hands full. Sometimes when I look into the future I can see January and then February kind of fades off, so we will figure out February in January. Then again, when I see people like La Cumbre and Marble who are like, 2017? Here’s our lineup of our beers and what we’re going to have. But, then again, we don’t have that solid of a reputation to put out a rotation beers like that. Those guys have their repertoire and their ability to put out specials and know that people are waiting to buy those specials as well.

That’s something that I myself want to work on in the coming years, is having that ability to look (ahead) six months, almost a year ahead of yourself. What styles are people looking for? What do they want to see as far as a packaged product? What do they want to see as far as specials that we have on tap or what your pub’s doing, what events are going on? I can do beer every day of my life, and I can get better at it, and I can hone in on that stuff. But, the front of house stuff, and the marketing and the ability to pull (in) a customer on the regular and make them happy regardless of quality of product, that’s really hard.

I give props to Marble, Bosque, La Cumbre, and those other guys that are able to kind of handle that, and it seems seamless with them. That’s all stuff that we look towards and are wanting to hone in on that, the ability to get that. It’s really hard, the marketing aspect of it, the advertising aspect of it. That’s stuff that people dedicate their lives to. And I just make beer. We are really happy with where we are now. It’s a matter of keeping that relevance and keeping our nose to the grindstone.

* * * * *

‘Twas indeed an excellent Year of the Bear all around, and we certainly look forward to increased availability of bombers, and the prospect of constant innovation of what wonders might appear on the Bear’s taps this coming year. Another BearFest on the horizon certainly whets my appetite on my birthday weekend, and the prospect of a taproom whenever that happens will certainly be a boon to the growing rumblings of the Bear. We hope for an equally productive year ahead as behind, and I would say this to those who may not have tried the brews at Boxing Bear: You simply don’t know what you’re missing!

Skål!

— Franz Solo

We have to say, we are excited for this place to open.

It has been quite the wild ride in Quarter Celtic’s first year of operation.

At long last I’ve managed to get to this delightful Look Back/Look Ahead Series article with Ror McKeown, David Facey, and Brady McKeown of the nearly one-year-old Quarter Celtic Brewpub. Stoutmeister and I were in attendance on a fine day earlier this winter for a lengthy interview.

(Editor’s note: It was a fun time, but in the end the interview was more than 40 minutes long, and the first draft was 6,700 words, so parts of the interview were trimmed out for the sake of brevity. We left the good stuff in, though. — S)

Solo: So, Look Back/Look Ahead gentlemen, good things, bad things, year behind, and what to look forward to this year?

Ror: Well, one of the good things was being open and things have been going really well. The trick was to get this neighborhood to realize that there was something in this mall again. When we first opened we existed off of all of the people who have been following Brady along, so we had all of the beer connoisseurs, and then finally got the neighborhood to buy in to that there’s something here. So now we’ve got a lot of new regular faces that just live in the neighborhood, which is perfect. That was kind of what we were shooting for was trying to cultivate new craft beer drinkers, because you can’t just keep going to the well with the other guys or you are going to saturate the market. We’ve got a ton of people that started coming in drinking Pedro O’Flannigan (Lager), or sometimes we get them on IPA and they never go back, so we’re doing our part to grow the craft beer drinkers. Since we are a pub and we have food, a lot of people are coming in just because they are grabbing something to eat, but it’s 50/50 everyone that’s coming in to eat is getting something to drink. We are getting a lot of beer out the door for one spot. How many barrels are we at now?

(Discussion between the three ensued)

David: Well, so about 700 barrels for the year so far, we could get to 900 barrels for the year possibly. So, that’s a representation that people are definitely drinking your beer.

Solo: Never a bad thing to be ahead of your expectations.

David: I think that’s, as we get more into the look back, the goal of the company.

Ror: And, the other part (was) just making our own identity. We came over from where we’d been with a company (Canteen/Il Vicino) for our whole entire adult life pretty much, and you’re just associated with that place. Now it’s not that place and so some people like it and some people don’t. But, that’s okay. Now after the first couple of months of being compared, now we’re actually just having people come here because they like this place, and that’s kind of what the goal was the whole time.

Solo: That’s always a hard split, especially with a longstanding location.

Ror: It is. We still love those guys, obviously we’re still friendly, but we’re not with them anymore. It was kind of an ambiguous beginning, everyone just kind of assumed that a new Il Vicino opened. But, it was nice because we had been in the industry long enough to where we got to pretty much cherry pick who came over (with us). We didn’t solicit anybody from anywhere, but a lot of people knew that we were opening, so they came and it was nice to hire somebody with whom you have a rapport, versus just X off the application. So, I think that we had a great crew to start with, (we are) super pleased with the kitchen. I knew the beer was going to be great, but the food was a complete question mark and I think these guys did a great job, so I’m very pleased with that.

Because a couple somebodies forgot to take new pictures, we're just borrow ones like this of David, left, and Brady. (Courtesy of Quarter Celtic)

Because a couple somebodies forgot to take new pictures, we’re just borrow ones like this of David, left, and Brady. (Courtesy of Quarter Celtic)

Solo: And, I know that that was something that you were interested in the past, so it’s cool to see that come to fruition, and I for one am definitely happy with the results.

David: It was nice because I think with what we all have under our belts, when we opened I think we had to be responsible for, and had a lot of input for the staff that we did hire. We kind of gave them the ball and said hey, run with it. If it doesn’t work then we’ll halt you, but if it works, we’re going to ride that wave. So for us, I think, it was really kind of cool to see the direct correlation between empowering people, empowering your staff and saying hey, you’re a part of this, and seeing it come to fruition. Pretty rewarding, not only do we feel that we have pretty good food, but you’re selling a lot of it as well so it’s not just us.

Solo: It’s always good to just be able to give that rein, within reason of course, but give that rein to employees or anyone under you and say hey, do what you think is right, make it happen and the result shows.

Ror: And, besides us starting a new venture it’s almost like we’re also instantly ingrained in the neighborhood, which is what we wanted to do, and we’re also bringing back a pretty much dead property, bringing it back to life. They’ve already signed four leases since we’ve opened and they’ve got two more pending, and I think this thing will be full probably by summer.

So at the corner there (of Lomas and San Mateo) they are tearing down that old pigeon coop and it looks like the digital sign that they promised is coming in, because we are hidden in plain sight. So, thank god for word of mouth and social media, that’s been great for us because we walked out in the neighborhood and hung door handle hangers, 2,500 of them in the four corners and we were expecting a 2-percent return, like 50 households know that we’re here and that’s a great start. We had over 650 of them back and so we were able to track it, and that kind of got the neighborhood on board, which is great. The word is getting out because, kind of the look back look forward, the look forward with the group we picked, they also wanted to grow with the company.

So, a lot of people that started with the company, (and) we are going to be tasking them with growing the company so we have our meeting probably in a week or two with the city to start doing our wholesaling. We’ve already got the lease, got our spot, and the reason we did it was because we have a clipboard in the office that’s like three pages deep of just people who have come to us that said when you get it, we want it or if you ever do it we want it so those will be the ones we go to first. But, there were enough names on there that we were like let’s just do it. We don’t even need to go sell ourselves, we just have to call and say we’re ready.

Solo: You’ve already got the brand established.

Ror: Yeah, which is kind of nice, and the great thing about the way it is set up now where breweries can sell to (other) breweries and wineries is that we’re at 12 accounts just brewery to brewery, which is kind of nice. (It was) completely unexpected, because it’s not what we were planning on doing. Our model was not to take over the state one can at a time, we just wanted to open a neighborhood brewpub. This (brewhouse) has more capacity than we are using it (for), so it is time to at least get out there in the keg market. So, we’re going to be selling kegs to anyone who has a restaurant license. It is nice that places like right down the street here (Jubilation) might pick up some crowler cans or some quarter cans. Since we’ve been in the business so long, we know so many people.

Why use this photo of Brady

Why use this photo of Brady “eating” a fake fish taco? Why not? (Courtesy of QC)

David: The other cool thing is that so many people that are opening new breweries right now, they know the reputation of Brady, so they may open and they have three or four of their own beers, but they need some guest taps, so they don’t hesitate to come and say, ‘Hey, for the first couple of weeks or months, can we have your beer on tap?’ Which is a nice correlation between that.

Solo: One hand washes the other.

David: And, like every craft beer enthusiast, you check out the new place and it’s nice for us to have that enthusiast go to brewery X that’s new and a consistent thing, Quarter Celtic is on (at) all of these new places. We are definitely doing our part to help out the industry, but also putting our brand out there.

Ror: Yeah, we finally got some (logo) tap handles. The guys at the Craftroom, people thought it was theirs because it just said Pedro O’Flannigan and we just gave them a silver knob, so now we can actually claim that beer. That’s been nice. Looking forward, we are definitely looking on the wholesale distribution thing. That location has potential for a taproom in it, and it’s a taproom where we don’t really need to have a ton of sales in it. As long as we can cover our fixed costs over there, then that’s really all we are looking for. So, it can be something like we used to be at (Il Vicino) way back in the day that just had a generic name and it was a little hole in the wall. And, we are fine with that because that was actually really fun.

David: The identity of it is still kind of up in the air. I mean, we’ve talked around the idea of doing kind of a growler filling station with limited seats or very specialty, only local, bottle shop. But, we don’t know, we really don’t know what the potential for that small location will be.

Ror: We are going to let that one take its own direction. Right now we are just focused on getting beer in and out of there to different places. It’s got a nice spot to work with. It’s also fun looking at other properties where if we do want to exercise a couple more taproom licenses we could do it. So, life is good. We’re like successful poor — things we wanted to do in year four we are doing in month nine, (even though) we only have nine months of revenue to fund those things. So, we’re still just a couple of guys that put a heel lock on a house, you know. We’re not backed by anyone who has a trust fund, but we are doing what we like and having a good time doing it.

David: I think that’s super important to us. I don’t know if anybody talks about that enough, (but) what we do is pretty fun. At the end of the day, I think we all can go home with stresses and staff stuff and running out of beer. I think at least once a week we can look at each other and say man, we have got one of the best jobs in the world, if not the best.

Ror: When you’re coming in, high fiving each other and texting funny things back and forth from work, to the guy who is sitting at home wishing he was at work because, ah, I missed what? So, I think it accomplished what we wanted. We wanted to work in a place we wanted to hang out at and it’s becoming that, which is nice.

Solo: And, you have the autonomy to run it the way you want it and all the rest of that.

David: I can’t speak for everybody else, but for me that was not necessarily a struggle, but something that I had to learn to apply, so to speak. Once we gained that perspective, it’s awesome. It’s just great to do what’s best for the company, because it directly correlates to your partners. It’s not just for this faceless brand, it’s for the people that you see on a daily basis and their families and your staff and that kind of thing. Complete autonomy is nice. (Aside to Brady) Why’d it take you so long?

Stoutmeister: So, on the beer front with the Pedro coming in to replace the Knotted Blonde, that was one change that happened. But, changes are inevitable the first year that you are open. I mean, your customers can tell you, this should be house, this should be special, and that sort of thing. From the beer perspective, what were you guys able to do this year? What were you proud of and what were the things where you were like, if I had a chance I’d go back and do that over again and I will?

Ror: Well, I didn’t brew it, but it was part of these guys (at) GABF, they had three that made it past the first round and had great comments. Two we put in the wrong category, but still had good comments. If you think about it, as soon as you had to send those beers in, we had only been brewing for five months before we had to send those in. We had some recipes we just started with.

David: We had to register for August. One of the beers we entered we had never brewed before with, the (McLomas) dry stout, which was really good. But, yeah, as far as on the beer front is concerned, I think we opened with the idea of let’s just get as many beers as we can possibly get on in the time allotted when we were allowed to brew, and when we could put it on tap. So, that’s kind of where the blonde came into because it was an ale, which we knew we could turn around pretty quickly.

Ror: And, we also waited on opening a couple of weeks because we didn’t want to open without any beer.

David: And then, we brought a Mexican lager strain in house. We brewed Pedro O’Flannigan for the first time, and the actual first batch which we produced we entered in the North American beer awards and it won a silver. So, from there it kind of when it started growing, manipulating house beer versus the fact that it is one of our biggest sellers. A nice light Mexican lager is one of our biggest sellers, so for us in the business mindset was that the blonde sold really, really well, but we also wanted to always have a lager strain in house.

Brady shows off his silver medal from the North American Beer Awards for that there Pedro O'Flanagan. (Courtesy of QC)

Brady shows off his silver medal from the North American Beer Awards for that there Pedro O’Flanagan. (Courtesy of QC)

Ror: And, we’re also not in brewery row or anything. We are in a neighborhood, so you need your gateway beer. So, that is an easy, non-offensive, easy drinking beer, so it just made sense to move it over. We were brewing backwards, so we were brewing by not planning what we want and brewing it we were like okay, we have a tank open now. So, it was a storage issue which was dictating how we were growing. We got a new cooler upstairs, so we have more storage up there, and then we are going to have another cooler at the Bogen spot, so now that we have more storage, now we can do it right. We can say we are going to brew this, this, this, and this, and have a place to put it. Where before we were going backwards like, hey, tank is almost empty, are we ready to brew another batch? It was totally backwards out of necessity. This has a lot of space and the kitchen is way bigger than we need, but even by picking up space upstairs there’s just no storage space. So, we are working on that.

David: So that (upstairs cooler) just opens up space for Brady and I.

Ror: Well, it’s going to open up this side of the board (for seasonals). Our real struggle was don’t run out of a house beer. But, now that we’ve got this cooler going that should start to change.

David: And, that’s the funny thing kind of like checks and balances kind of a thing with our company is, don’t give Brady and I too much time to start talking and getting excited about things and we will just push (other) things off to the side. This (house beers) is really important to us. What people come in and they know and understand and are familiar with, let’s keep that consistent. Then, when we have time, then get the creative juices flowing.

Ror: Now that we have storage space here comes the fun stuff. We’re an Irish place and when you think of Irish coffee, we are going to do an Irish coffee stout.

David: An imperial milk stout that we will infuse with coffee that we will actually barrel age in our whiskey barrels. Everyone does a coffee stout, especially around this town, and a lot of people do it really well. But, to fit in our theme we figured an Irish coffee stout would be the way to go.

Ror: We were even thinking about getting like a cool …

Brady: Irish coffee mugs.

Ror: Yeah, a nice glass.

Brady: 10-percent-plus alcohol, so a smaller glass.

Solo: Yeah, we will still drink you dry on that one.

David: So, that’s just one of the things and now that we have a better grasp on the demand for house beers and what we can do as far as seasonals and specialties. I think towards the end of this year Brady and I have really been kind of toying around with techniques more than really (doing) crazy recipe developments or crazy one-off beers. We’ve been really focusing on different brewing techniques on how to bring different characteristics towards beers.

Ror: Well, I think Clark was a good example of that because the Clark was more technique than …

David: Anything else. And, there was also an element of something new. What’s not happening in this town is happening in other parts of the country that are beer meccas? The New England IPA was one of the things that we heard people who had attempted it, but never really advertised it as so, and never really went full bore with both feet in the deep end, so to speak. So, we spent probably three weeks, almost a month just kind of doing research and hop utilization and different techniques. Then we brewed it and then we figured, well, let’s advertise it and it was better received than we thought. We had really high hopes for it, and we knew that it was a really good quality beer. But, the reception on it had kind of been inspiring, so to speak. We should toy around with things more.

Brady: Well, it’s been split. Quite a few people really liked it, but, well it’s not New England so, what’s more New England? Clam chowder?

Ror: We are still trying to find what we are going to hang our hat on. Because now that we are a new place, I know Brady left a hundred different recipes over there (at Canteen) you know, intellectual property, and that’s fine. But, how do you do great beer again without someone saying, oh, you copied? You just come up with it. When we were doing construction, it was funny because we were saying, Brady, so you learned one way and that’s the way you do it. So, I told Brady, but you’ve got no recipes and he says up here (points to his head) I’ve got it, and slams his head against that pole, and I’m saying, oh no, it’s all gone! (Everyone laughs) Starting fresh is refreshing, but it is difficult, because you’ve done a lot of things well and you just don’t want to copy yourself. So, we are trying not to copy ourselves, which is really weird

Quarter Celtic will be hopping come St. Patrick's Day. (Courtesy of QC)

Quarter Celtic will be hopping come St. Patrick’s Day. (Courtesy of QC)

We eventually steered the conversation toward this year. Lots of wild and crazy new beer ideas are being bandied about.

David: I think Ror is absolutely right about (how) 2017 is concerned. We have a whiteboard upstairs and when Brady and I are working up in the cold room, any cold room work you get kind of a little crazy going on, and then you start talking and listening to loud music. So, we have a whiteboard of just interesting beer styles that we want to bring on and different techniques that we want to use and then go from there. That’s kind of the best thing about being a pub brewer, and we will say this all day every day.

Stoutmeister: You’re not beholden to your distributor coming to you and saying we need more of this.

David: Yeah, that’s the best, and there are times where we come to the guys and say, hey, we are thinking about this really outside of the box beer and pretty much 10 times out of 10 they are like, hey, let’s see how it works.

Ror: The fun part is you can walk upstairs where Brady bought a Bose Soundsystem, so he’s got 5-foot big ol’ speakers up there, (and) he’s got 2-foot speakers in the cold room. You’ll walk up and see these guys doing like kids at play and you’re like, this is awesome.

David: The funny thing I think about this group, whether it’s from Canteen or Quarter Celtic, is as you guys know, we have a good time. There’s no reason not to do that, there’s really not because what we do is pretty fun.

Solo: And, you bring a lot of fun to everyone else.

David: Yeah, and it’s really not going to stop.

Ror: We’re working on an event for St. Patty’s Day weekend where we are going to have all our patio space and have a two-day event where we have some special beers and food, music, and so on. And, just have a good time and embrace our Quarter Celtic-ness and have some fun with it. So, that will be our kind of our thing. Hopefully it will be an annual thing for us.

David: Looking forward, we opened on the 24th of February, but it’s so close to St Patrick’s Day, it’s so close to our theme that definitely the debut of some brand new barrel-aged beers is going to happen, and that day or that weekend, one of which we’ve already told you about (Irish coffee stout). Maybe two or three are possible, we will let you know.

Ror: We are also going to, we like to have fun with facial hair so we will be all shaved, we are thinking about a time, X amount of time out from St Paddy’s Day and everyone will grow out the … it’s the one where you’re missing this piece and …

Stoutmeister: That’s like the mutton chops.

David: Yeah, kind of, it’s very Irish.

Ror: We’re just trying to think of a bunch of things that get people to come in, and we’re also trying to make some beer events out of thin air, which I think are some of the most fun ones. Because we have a little list going in the office of just, oh that’s pretty fun. How can we spin that? So, we’re going to have some fun things going on.

David: There’s (still) a lot of serious stuff that happens in any business, I would think.

Ror: And, I didn’t even realize until a couple of days ago when I was messing around on Untappd. Well, it says we have 25 beers, but there’s like 20-something different styles we’ve done in the past year. #GFF was really good, I was pleased with how GFF came out. I’m not a really big IPA drinker and I was drinking that.

David: Then the beer that we did for the Brewers Association for American Craft Beer Week, the Biggest Small Beer, that imperial porter.

Ror: And then, we brewed Mile High for our neighborhood association. They renamed Fair Heights to Mile High. We said we would name a beer after them, so we are really happy with that and we love the neighborhood so we definitely wanted to give back.

Solo: That’s awesome, because it’s not always so easy.

David: I think that was a big driving force of why we moved in to this spot that was abandoned, that was, so to speak, run down, is to be a part of that neighborhood.

Ror shows off the popular Quarter Cans. (Courtesy of QC)

Ror shows off the popular Quarter Cans. (Courtesy of QC)

Ror: But as I was looking through that (Untappd) people were already saying, when are you going to brew this beer again? When we had Single Action Kolsch, we really enjoyed that one. County Down Brown was another one where people asked for that back. Looking back at the board there’s only seven beers, but we’ve done a bunch.

The other fun thing about looking forward, looking back is that when we opened, we didn’t open with everything we wanted. We didn’t have that Quarter Can machine, but now we have (it) and we’re having a good time with it. Another one, everyone wants live music here, so do we, but we have no elbow room. So, we’re going to go up and so we are going to put a stage on top of this (wall where the beer boards currently reside), and we are going to put a little trap door there so they can come up.

One (other) thing that we wanted was a cover outside. That’s not going to happen this year, so we are trying to figure out how we can get a little heat out there because we are dog friendly. So, if we maybe put a temporary tent or sort of wall this in a little bit, but by probably this time next year we expect to have this whole thing covered with radiant heating, lights, and everything. … I think it’s really cool that we have a patio, but the improvements are getting pushed out a little bit.

David: Being part of the (New Mexico Brewers) Guild and being part of the community and being part of the industry, I think as a company there’s a few thank you’s that we need to do — La Cumbre is a really big one for helping us out letting us wash our kegs there for awhile. Boxing Bear, Bosque, Canteen, Nexus, Chama (also) really helped us. Whether it’s one bag of grain here or letting us wash our kegs or anything like that, we are super humble to be a part of the Guild, and when we did our own thing to really maintain that representation of being part of the Guild.

Ror: And, we still enjoy the personal connection to all of those breweries, too, so that’s part of the fun of doing this is that you’ve got some friends that are kindred spirits doing the same thing.

David: So, all of those places, they’ve really helped us out and we’ve worked with them, and Brady in turn has helped them out in the past. So, I don’t know if it’s a pay-it-forward or pay-it-back kind of situation, but that’s super humbling. We are blessed to have that sense that we know and we understand that we are part of something bigger.

* * * * *

So, for somewhat of a conclusion for the brave and the adventuresome who have dared to delve all the way to the end of this grand encounter, in short, it was a great first year for the lads and lasses at Quarter Celtic. The beer was good, the food was good, and the venue itself was good, with a tall ceiling for possibilities and a boon for the community around it. The foundation for strong distribution has been made with the procurement of a space dedicated to that purpose. Taprooms may well be on the horizon and one thing is for sure, the delightfully boisterous shenanigans we have all come to know and love are certainly here to stay. One good year under the belt (nearly to the day), and many bright years lie ripe for the taking.

Skål!

— Franz Solo

Thomas Baxter, an actual monk from the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, is often serving beers at Monks' Corner downtown.

Thomas Baxter, an actual monk from the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, is often serving beers at Monks’ Corner downtown.

I recently visited Monks’ Corner Taproom for my final contribution to this year’s Look Back/Look Ahead Series. It seemed fitting to finish at the new taproom location for Abbey Brewing, which likely is tied more closely to centuries old brewing traditions than any other New Mexico brewery. General manager Chris Pacheco was kind enough to sit down with me on a late Friday afternoon and do two of my favorite things — talk about beer and drink beer.

“We did a soft opening on September 29, and then our first day of business was October 5,” Chris said. “So it was kind of a lot just trying to put everything together and make sure that everything was in order. But, it was fun.

“I came on about a month before. I gave my month notice at Chama River, and in the interim time I was kinda spending time both at Chama doing my shifts, and coming (here) trying to hire staff, order cleaning supplies, organize glassware, as well as making sure all of the permits were in hand. It wasn’t just me, though. Thomas Baxter was on a little bit before me. He’s a monk from the Monastery (of Christ in the Desert), actually. He took a year sabbatical to come work with us.”

Wait, what? Is there really a monk working at the taproom?

“A lot of first timers will come in and one of their first question’s is, ‘Are their real monks?’ and a lot of the time Tom is here and he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m one of the monks from the monastery,’ and that kinda throws them off,” Chris said. “So, there are real monks. Even on the packaging of the beer they are all real monks. If you look at the box it will say the monk’s (actual) name. It brings the story back up front. We get a lot of questions about that. It’s kind of cool. It’s definitely very different … a different kind of model to work with. It makes it interesting and fun but that was also part of the reason why it was easy to buy into it … because of the story.”

It was only a few minutes into our discussion that I sensed Chris’ genuine respect for the tradition that is the foundation of Abbey Brewing. It runs deeper than the name and the brand, and it doesn’t just represent something, it is something. It’s not something that can be described in writing, but rather something that is felt, experienced, lived. Chris described visiting the monastery, near Abiquiu, as a part of employee training.

“It’s definitely an eye-opening thing for a lot of us,” he said. “You have a preconceived notion of what a monastery is going to be. You have some great people with great senses of humor. It’s definitely a reverent place, but they are normal people. We did a day trip. It’s really, really cool. Everyone seemed to kind of get a better sense of what the business is about. It’s not just a taproom. There was something behind it … that was bigger. It went back to a tradition of monastic brewing, and European-style monastic brewing. Not necessarily location-wise here, but with our beer and what we are doing. It definitely taps into that culture of your tradition.”

The Monks’ touch extends beyond the monastery and directly into the taproom, but in more ways than just the beer. It’s part of the expectations for the staff.

“Some of our employee handbook goes back and forth with the Benedictine traditions,” Chris said. “Hospitality is one of the most important things to them and we try to bring that into our environment. Hospitality, quality, and treating everybody fairly is one of the biggest things. We are as accommodating as we can be with everyone until it becomes an issue of safety.”

There was also an effort to incorporate the visible features of the Abiquiu area into the taproom.

“The design of the taproom really has that in mind in terms of the color scheme,” Chris said. “It’s all based on one of the photographs that’s in the back, which is the Chama River Canyon, and it was a nice thing to learn that the color scheme was built around a photo that was taken on the way to the monastery. It’s all trying to tie in to going back to the monastery where it started from.”

Chris reminded me that some of the beer uses hops from the monastery.

“They grow their own hops … and we’re working on a Tripel Reserve right now,” Chris said. “And, if we do any brew that has a reserve title that means they use our local hops. We have to go to the open market like everyone else for most of the other hops.”

There will be a special release party today (Tuesday) at the taproom for the Tripel Reserve. It will run from 6 to 10 p.m. and also feature live art, music, and food specials.

Well, that looks just heavenly. Hello, Monks' Corner, welcome to the party.

Monks’ Corner has found its niche downtown.

Beyond the long history of monastic brewing, it’s also important to point out that Abbey Brewing is a relatively long-established brewery in New Mexico.

“We have been distributing since 2005,” Chris said. “It hasn’t been at a huge scale, but it’s been out-of-state, too, so we have some sort of a reach. It was kinda interesting that they did it that way. That they did the distribution first and then this is the first taproom.”

One of the biggest challenges of new breweries/taprooms seems to be filling taps with enough beer, though Monks’ clearly had a distinct advantage in that aspect. However, opening is never an easy task.

“We had our final inspection on the day of our soft opening,” Chris said. “After that it was almost like a restaurant impossible episode where we had, for the next three hours, all hands on deck to make sure that it looked presentable for opening. We got it done for the soft opening.”

One aspect of Monks’ Corner Taproom that is truly unique is its partnership with the business right next door.

“This is one of the coolest partnerships, just having a restaurant attached within walking distance and you can bring your beer in here,” Chris said. “It’s two different companies, two different staffs, two different owners.”

That’s correct. You can walk about 15 feet from the bar at Monks’ Corner to the ordering counter at Maya, which offers great New Mexican cuisine, salads, and sandwiches. The fish tacos I had were top notch.

“One of the coolest things is that you can, if you felt like you just wanted to have lunch or dinner outside of the taproom, you could come into this side and have a meal away from the taproom ambience, and you can still bring your beer in here,” Chris said. “For me that was one of the most interesting things that I’ve seen from us so far.”

You can order your food from Maya and have it delivered to your table at Monks' Corner.

You can order your food from Maya and have it delivered to your table at Monks’ Corner.

It has been just over four months since opening and Chris still has his game face on.

“Even to this day it still feels like we’re opening,” he said. “It’s a work-in-process. I was really surprised with the neighborhood. With the new building and the neighborhood and all the breweries around here … this community really supports its local breweries. A lot of our business … the bulk of our business comes from people in this neighborhood. You never know what to expect, but this neighborhood has been really good to us so far. I didn’t know what to expect with downtown Albuquerque, honestly, but it’s nice. You see bartenders and such from some of the other breweries that come in and talk.

“One of the cool things that I have noticed is that all these taprooms in this area are extremely different, like aesthetically, (and) like beer style-wise, too. It’s like we all have something to offer the neighborhood and the residents of the neighborhood, which I think is great because it gives us, as consumers, a better choice. It gives you more of an option and it creates a real scene in downtown Albuquerque.”

Looking forward, Chris said he hopes to further embrace the neighborhood by planning some events.

“We really want to do a lot more events, and give the customer something to do along with have a beer, events that make sense for the brand as well as make sense for the neighborhood,” he said. “We want to do live music and incorporate more live music. We are flirting with the ideas of things like Geeks Who Drink or some other sort of trivia, maybe live art installations. Almost, at this point, throw things at the wall and see what sticks.

“I know that at some point we’d like to do a firkin release when it makes sense, and do some releases around some of the reserve beers that are going to be coming shortly. The first one that we will have out is the Tripel Reserve, which will be made with the local hops. So, we want to build an event around that, but it’s still kind of in the planning process.”

Even a brewery rooted in monastic tradition looks to mix things up a bit every now and again.

“There’s been talks of an American style pale ale that kind of leans towards an IPA, which is very unusual for a Belgian brewery to do, but it’s not 100 percent,” Chris said. “There might be a (sort) of a pale ale from us. We are also looking at starting working on some ciders, a sweet and a dry cider. Hopefully we can start expanding our selection. When we opened the doors I think we started with five beers and now we have seven on tap of our own. They’re working on other ones to bring in too.

“One thing I do like, also that I keep on forgetting because it’s almost like an afterthought to me, but we do have 20 taps. We typically have 10 to 15 guest taps on at a time. It’s going to be ever-changing. We have some favorites that will probably not leave the tap, but for the most part it’s an experiment and what we’re going to bring in seasonally will change.”

In addition to the food next door, Chris said he was also enthusiastic about having some smaller, snackier options available in the taproom, options that would pair well with the beer.

“We’re planning on bringing cheese and charcuterie plates also and pairing that with some of the beers that we have,” Chris said. “That’s a project that we are currently working on right now. We always want to have a couple of snack options — some chocolate options that will pair well with some of our dark beers, (or) nuts, almonds, things of that nature. We want it to be something you can eat while you are sitting down, but also want to go in with the thought that it will compliment the beer and vice versa … as well as some of the wine, too.”

Considering the progress made by Monks’ Corner so far this year, and the plans for next year, there is no reason not to be believe that the location is destined to become a staple of the community.

“All and all, I think our beer scene statewide is fantastic,” Chris said. “It’s exciting because as a state we’re still young at making beer, but we’re doing so well. We’re fortunate to be where we’re at after three months of business, but still you always kind of want to look forward and thrive in a thriving community. So, there’s opportunity for all of us and I think the good things is that there is a niche for everyone. There’s room for everybody in this environment as long as the quality is there.”

Be sure and get over to Monks’ Corner next time you are in downtown ABQ to check on the progress and drink some delicious beer. Don’t forget the tasty food options. The Brew Crew wishes Monks’ Corner and Abbey Brewing the best of luck in 2017.

Cheers!

— Deezbeers

No beer recipe was safe in a year of change for Rio Bravo.

No beer recipe was safe in a year of change for Rio Bravo.

For this edition of our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series, I caught up with Rio Bravo head brewer Ty Levis at the end of last week. Ty is seemingly always in motion, befitting his position. Rio Bravo has endured its share of ups and downs since opening in late 2015, but he and the rest of the staff remain optimistic for the future.

“It’s been a pretty crazy year around here, just like you could imagine,” Ty said. “(It was) our first full year of operations under our belt, getting things figured out, what’s working in the market. And then, really just focusing on super high-quality beers, driving people in here.”

Rio Bravo went big from the beginning, even putting multiple beers into cans as soon as its line was up and running. In retrospect, Ty noted that the brewery may have overreached.

“We went to market with six different products at once, just because we could with labels,” he said. “But, we found a much more focused approach on two or three core brands is how we’re going to continue forward. Those two main brands right now are our Snakebite IPA and the Pinon Coffee Porter, which are selling extremely well for us and helping to get out name out there.”

Rio Bravo will still offer up a wide variety of beers, but those will stay home, so to speak.

“Then, on premise, the sky’s the limit,” Ty said. “Thirteen-percent alcohol (imperial beers), plus wood aging, plus sours, plus everything we’ve done in the last six months, just really pushing the quality. Because in this market, you’re just not going to make it if you don’t have that quality there, if you don’t put your best effort, beers that blow people’s minds. It’s a crucial aspect that just because you’re good at technical brewing doesn’t mean that you’re going to be able to get out there and wow people with what you do.”

Ty said the plan is to eventually have 23 different beers on tap at the brewery, plus one cider from Sandia Hard Cider.

“We still want to get more warm chairs,” he said. “I feel like having the killer variety of really crazy, good beer is going to help drive that. My challenge to people is if they haven’t set foot in here in six months, then they owe it to themselves to come in and check it out, because things like this imperial stout (Grab ’Em by the Putin) and things like the Level 3 IPA that aren’t available anywhere else. We’re not planning on canning a beer that has $1,500 worth of hops in nine barrels. We would never make any money on that. We can break even over the bar, at least.”

Cans of the Pinon Coffee Porter have taken off for Rio Bravo.

Cans of the Pinon Coffee Porter have taken off for Rio Bravo.

Ty has definitely embraced the company motto, “Live Bold,” in challenging beer drinkers around town to return to Rio Bravo and re-try his beers. A number of recipes have been completely redone, with one beer being completely renamed.

“From the original (recipe), we revamped the (Karl’s) Sommerbier,” Ty said. “We dried it out quite a bit more and basically renamed it La Luz, because it could sort of fall into any generic light lager category the way it’s brewed. We got a silver medal at Best of Craft Beer. This is the second time we’ve brewed this exact same recipe with a slightly drier character.”

The plan is now to get La Luz as that third beer in cans, as Ty said he felt it would sell quite well in the warmer months coming up.

“We’ve been focusing on pushing sales for our core brands now,” he said. “We’ve decided what those are. We’re in the middle of trying to get new labels going that will more closely match what the Pinon Coffee Porter looks like, on our Snakebite and our future cans. That way we can tie the branding together. The silver, while it looked cool, it’s too washy when you get on a shelf, it doesn’t stand out, it doesn’t have enough contrast.”

Rio Bravo is working on improving just about every aspect of presentation, from the look of the cans to how they handle social media and more.

“We feel like that’s one of the things we’re learning — marketing and image are crucial parts of what we do,” Ty said. “If you want to make the best beer, you have to see where your market is, you have to make sure you’re figuring out what your customers are looking for. We’ve done that with the Pinon Coffee and we’re doing that with the Snakebite. We’re getting it up there.”

Of course, with every beer success story, there have been some that have not lived up to expectations. Ty said the Duke City Pilsner will likely bite the bullet so they can focus on La Luz as their light lager offering. The Amber will no longer be canned, though it will remain on tap at the brewery, where it has sold well.

“The Amber is doing so well on draft-wise over our own bar, but we just didn’t really move a lot of cans of it,” Ty said. “We’re probably pulling the plug on Amber cans, even though it made a second-round judging at GABF and just got a silver medal at Best of Craft Beer in the American-style ESB category. It’s a top-notch, high-quality beer with just the right balance of hops and malts to be that kind of British chewy style. But, we can’t give it away (in cans). That’s harsh to say, but that’s the reality in this crowded marketplace with so many products out there that are world class. How do you get people to notice?”

That silo out back should be a game-changer for Rio Bravo in 2017.

That silo out back should be a game-changer for Rio Bravo in 2017.

Rio Bravo also earned a bronze medal in the Fruited Wheat Beer category at the Best of Craft Beer Awards with its Rubus Ruckus. The brewery technically considers it a sour, but it was only the second sour Ty has made so far. He has a peach sour, name TBA, due up next. Another beer debuting this week will be the Salted Caramel Belgian Strong Golden, which has been aging in the barrels upstairs. Overall, expect more sours and more barrel-aged offerings to come in 2017, Ty said, as Rio Bravo will keep the taps flowing with as many unique styles of beer as possible at the brewery.

“I think when you first came here to this empty shell and we talked when we were under construction, I had 182,000 miles on my car,” Ty said. “Right now I’m at 261,000. I’m a good 80,000 miles into this project here in Albuquerque, and I still look forward to coming to work every day to see what we can do better with a little bit more quality, with a little bit more flavor. Because, I want to make sure everybody knows that whatever we came out with at the very beginning — conservative, malty — we were still learning our system. Now we’re at a point where it’s kind of no holds barred and we’re really putting it out there.”

The next time you get the chance, stop in at Rio Bravo and take Ty up on his challenge to retry his beers. He is looking for as much feedback and constructive criticism as the public is willing to provide. What kind of adventurous beer drinkers would we be in Albuquerque if we just left him hanging?

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Red Door will be looking to slow it down and refine things in 2017.

Red Door will be looking to slow it down and refine the taproom experience in 2017.

After taking a week off from our Look Back/Look Ahead Series to deal with SB314, the Stout Challenge, and a couple hangovers, we are back with our latest entry on Red Door Brewing. I sat down with brewmaster Wayne Martinez at the end of last week to recap 2016 and preview what is to come in 2017.

“2016 was opening the second taproom downtown and then just really trying to grow a little bit, grow our distribution a little bit,” Wayne said. “That was the majority of it. We’re constantly trying to increase our efficiency in the back, make a better product, but that’s kind of a never-ending thing for brewers no matter who you are. If you’re not trying to get better, there’s no point to doing it.”

The taproom has become a swanky spot for downtown drinkers. It tends to peak in during the traditional happy hour stretch (5 to 7 p.m.) as folks are getting off work. It also lends itself to events that are unlike those held at the main brewery taproom on Candelaria. Sometimes the results can be, well, unexpected.

“We started doing Geeks Who Drink downtown,” Wayne said. “We got lucky and got to do The Gilmore Girls special, that was only at one bar in this city, maybe in the state. That was really big for us. I knew Gilmore Girls was popular and when it came back it was popular, but people were sitting on the floor. We had our occupancy (posted), but we didn’t have as many seats as our occupancy allows, and people were still coming in. We told them we didn’t have any place for them to sit. They didn’t care.”

Take note, be very careful if you try to crack a derogatory joke about The Gilmore Girls in this town. You may not make it out alive.

All our photos of the taproom were from before it was finished. Here's a swanky one from afterwards. (Courtesy of Red Door)

All our photos of the taproom were from before it was finished. Here’s a swanky one from afterwards. (Courtesy of Red Door)

Anyway, the addition of the taproom also led to another long overdue improvement at the brewery.

“We expanded the cooler when we did the new taproom,” Wayne said, after noting a lack of cooler space was a problem during last year’s Look Back/Look Ahead interview. “We had to, it was already a little cramped for just here. We’ll be fine with that for a while.”

Speaking of the beer, 2016 was definitely a year for Red Door to figure out the wants and needs of its customers.

“The Vanilla Cream, when we took it off the demand was outrageous to bring it back,” Wayne said. “We’ve actually made that a year-round beer now. … We can turn it over quickly, which is nice. It’s a relatively simple beer to make. It’s easy to stay consistent. There’s not too many variables.”

Wayne would admit to having a particular favorite among the many seasonals he brewed up over the course of last year.

“My favorite beer that we made was probably the barrel-aged brown, which was based off the Nieuwe Bruin,” he said. “We partnered with (Broken Trail), got their very first whiskey barrel they used for their one-year whiskeys. We threw the brown in there for about three-and-a-half months. Just the flavors that came off of that, the smokiness, the bourbon flavor, the whiskey oak flavors, I think that was my favorite beer that we put out last year.”

Wayne did note that despite the quality, it was not the type of beer that would sell well during warmer months. The Red Door staff took careful note of which seasonals did well during the, well, seasons.

“I think there were a few seasonals that weren’t really within the season, and we learned that they did not really do well,” Wayne said. “They might have been reviewed positively and people might have said they liked them, but we could tell sales weren’t there. Whereas something like our Blackberry Hefeweizen, (we had the) perfect season for releasing it. It was the best beer release we’ve had to date, so much so that it’s been one of the few seasonals we’ve done three batches of during that span. People were flying through it.”

See? Just like Wayne said, Vanilla Cream Ale is now up top among the regular beers on tap.

See? Just like Wayne said, Vanilla Cream Ale is now up top among the regular beers on tap.

After all the hustle and bustle related to the addition of the off-site taproom in 2016, Red Door is planning to take things a little easier in 2017.

“This year is going to be more refinement of our locations,” Wayne said. “We don’t have any big plans as of now to expand or do anything crazy. The big thing here (at Candelaria) is we’re going to redo the draft system, have more taps. There’s 10 here and 12 downtown. What it is now is if we have a seasonal and the previous one isn’t out, we put it downtown (only) on tap there. We’re going to put more taps here. It’s going to allow us to do more seasonals as well. That’s the biggest thing we have planned.”

Getting Red Door beers on tap at more restaurants and bars is also a big priority for 2017.

“We’re really focused on distribution this year,” Wayne said. “We kind of redid how we were doing things, retooled it, got some new blood in there to kind of reorganize everything and take it in hopefully a positive direction. Already this year we’re seeing an increase in sales slowly. That’s the other big thing.”

Like any brewer, Wayne also has a list of things he would like to do, though none have been set in stone as yet.

“As far as like wishful stuff that I think probably will happen, but it’s just on the back burner, definitely we’re going to start looking into a barrel-aging program,” he said. “I definitely want to get more barrel-aged (beers) and sours as well. We’re getting ready to do a true sour. A gose, doing a kettle sour would be nice, and probably we’ll do one of those first. But I definitely want to get something aging that’s going to be in there for a year, at least, get that started this year so by 2018 we’ll have some of that stuff coming out.”

There are no major plans to get Red Door beers into package, but limited runs of certain beers may be coming.

“We’re hopefully going to be doing some sort of small-batch bomber program,” Wayne said. “That may not be pushed out to distribution, as far as like Jubilation or anything like that. It would just be in house. Doing something like for our seasonals, even our standards, if you’re looking for something smaller than a growler. Hopefully we can figure out how to put our stout in there, because we can’t put that in growlers right now.”

Wayne said there is no set schedule for exactly when they will re-release some of their more popular seasonals from the past, but fans can expect to see Stormtrooper Imperial IPA, and O.D.B. (Oaked Dark Belgian) back on tap in the future. He also said there are no plans to add more major pieces of equipment in the back, at least not right now.

“It’s small equipment stuff, I think, that we’re going to be focused on in the back,” he said. “We’re not going to be getting a new brewhouse or new fermenters. We’re buying another heat exchanger, buying more kegs, focusing on stuff for increased distribution.”

The ubiquitous TV and video game system at the main location. Tournaments may be coming back soon here and downtown!

The ubiquitous TV and video game system at the main location. Tournaments may be coming back soon here and downtown!

The Red Door staff is also working on some new and fun events for people in 2017. The brewery is already well known for having retro video game systems at both locations, so there could certainly be more tournament-style events in the near future, Wayne said.

“Definitely we’re trying to do events that aren’t the same old thing,” he said. “We had done it when we first opened, we did a video game competition. I think Call of Duty was the first one, then we did Mario Kart. Now we’re doing Smash Brothers downtown. I think we’re going to try do those a little more frequently. Initially it was hard having enough consoles and CDs to do it, but I think we’ve alleviated that concern.”

Rather than try to fill any specific niche, the goal for Red Door is to still be the type of brewery where everyone can find something they enjoy, from the beers to the events and more.

“I don’t know that we necessarily have (to fill a niche),” Wayne said. “We’re trying to do the gluten-removed beers. Going into 2017, we’re going to have another cider or two. I don’t know that we’re trying to appeal just to a gluten-removed crowd. I think right now we’re still trying to be as all-encompassing as we can. I’m not a big fan of the idea of just becoming an English-style brewery or a Belgian-style brewery. It works for other places, but I don’t know if it would work for us.”

Thank you to Wayne for taking the time to chat. We wish Red Door all the luck in 2017 and beyond. Just let us know when the Stormtrooper is ready!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

It was Nexus' turn for an interview for our Look Back/Look Ahead Series. The fried chicken arrived shortly after this picture was taken, FYI.

It was Nexus’ turn for an interview for our Look Back/Look Ahead Series. The fried chicken arrived shortly after this picture was taken, FYI.

Things are going good at Nexus Brewery. How good, one might ask? Owner Ken Carson is already planning a third location, even though he only opened his second this past June. For this edition of our Look Back/Look Ahead Series, I sat down with Ken and head brewer Kaylynn McKnight to recap the year that was and preview what all is to come this year. The biggest revelation, clearly, was the one above.

To get there, one has to recap what has happened in the prior 12 months. Nexus had another busy, bountiful year, one that even included the opening of its second location, the Nexus Silver Taproom, on the west side of town. There were many smaller, but equally important, developments going on as well.

“The World Beer Cup, that was nice,” Kaylynn said of the gold medal for Honey Chamomile Wheat, awarded back in April. “I got an assistant last year. It’s pretty nice to have some help back there. He’s doing pretty good back there, three days a week, and then he’s doing other stuff for the company. … It’s fun teaching someone else to brew, someone else that’s passionate about a craft-brewing industry job. That’s pretty exciting.”

Kaylynn said Nexus saw an increase of 200 barrels of production from 2015 to 2016, in part due to the new taproom, but demand was also up at the mothership.

“With the influx of all the breweries and everything, we still increased, just off this operation alone, we increased 15 percent,” Ken said. “I don’t mean to brag or anything, but we’re really pleased we carved out a niche in this (crowded) market.”

The hit beers in 2016 included old favorites like Beam Me Up Scotty, plus new ones such as the Bird of Prey IPA.

“As far as the beer goes, I think we talked about shifting the normal IPA that we have to the Bird of Prey IPA,” Kaylynn said. “The reason being, we can do that because I have better hop contracts this year. I have more fun, good, crazy hops to play with. The Bird of Prey sold really well.”

You had one job for this photo, Jeff. One job! At least it was safe at the brewery.

We still love this photo. That’s Kaylynn on the left with Boxing Bear’s Justin Hamilton and La Cumbre’s Jeff Erway, who forgot his award, after all three won gold at the World Beer Cup.

The introduction of Nexus Silver also meant new customers. Ken said they were a bit surprised by the different palates of folks on the west side of town.

“On the west side, those guys are not hopheads over there,” Ken said. “We’re selling a ton of Imperial Cream; high-alcohol beers are (doing) amazing over there.”

Other twists with the crowd at Silver include more 20-ounce pours being served than the standard 16-ounce, plus growler sales are higher there. In addition to the differences in how people consume the beer, the taproom also went through an interior renovation.

“We started off, no one was happy with the interior,” Ken said. “So we went back and redid the interior, changed it substantially.”

The lineup of guest beers has also evolved over time, Ken added. The goal is to bring in different and unique beers that can either complement the Nexus lineup, or fill in the gaps.

As for this year, there are plans for more events and the like at Nexus Silver. Ken said fans can expect live music on Sundays, while the house party theme will continue Saturday night. They will also bring food dishes from the main location to the taproom every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m., selling them as sort of a food hour, in lieu of a happy hour. As always, Nexus will listen to its customers and ultimately settle on what they want from the location.

The exterior of the Nexus Silver Taproom hasn't changed since opening, but the inside sure did. We just lack a picture of it. (D'oh!)

The exterior of the Nexus Silver Taproom hasn’t changed since opening, but the inside sure did. We just lack a picture of it. (D’oh!)

Of course, even with Nexus Silver so new, plans are already afoot to put a third location just south of downtown.

“I guess the big news is, and you guys get to break the news again, is I bought a building off Bridge right (south on) Broadway,” Ken said. “It’s an old nightclub. I’m working on the financing right now. We’re going to go in and we’re going to call it our smokehouse. It’s going to be barbecue, but we’re also going to have a real, live smokehouse where we actually smoke meat, the old-fashioned stuff.”

OK, more delicious food is coming, but what about the beer?

“In addition to that, in half of our building, we’re going to add another brewery to it, probably around 15 barrels,” Ken said. “We’re going to keep this brewery here. This is all subject to financing. Things do change, fortunately and unfortunately, as you go along, but I think we’re full capable of doing this. And then, at that point, we’re going to go retail and start distributing our beer. We feel like we have a couple beers to put to market that will fill a space.”

More food, more beer, beer being distributed … this is all good news. Very good.

“The building is 9,000 square feet,” Ken said. “It has a stage. We planning on having a patio. The food, we’re going to do it in such a way it’s going to kind of be a takeout restaurant with a taproom. So, you can go get your food and take it home, or you can walk it down to the taproom. We’re not going to have a full-service restaurant.”

Ken said he hopes for those who do not go for the food, they will have a more interactive experience with one another at the taproom. It is an atmosphere he has always looked for in his locations.

Food is still important, however.

“I’ll still probably serve the fried chicken down there, but we’ll probably put more emphasis on the gumbo and Cajun food,” Ken said. “I’m looking forward to it. I see us making our own sausage, or own bacon, I see us doing all of those things.”

Start exercising now, people. The pounds are coming.

The Crew has always agreed that Nexus' food is wonderful.

Aw, the Crew was so much thinner back then. Before all that chicken and all those waffles over the years. And, just our general laziness.

As for the original location, Ken said they are experimenting with some new dishes, as well as working with their customers to determine if some of the existing dishes need some tweaking here or there.

“What we have in plans for (this) year is we’re re-looking at our menu,” Ken said. “We’re going to go through a process talking with our customers to see what they like, what they’d like to see changed, any suggestion they have. I’m going to work that through a survey and then through a blog, get their opinions, see what they say.”

Go on …

“We’re working on a soul food egg roll which is collared green, green chile, and chicken,” Ken said. “We have a cinnamon waffle that’s going to be drenched with icing. Then we’ve got a lot of other things. Then I’m going to fire up the barbecue pit and we’re going to every Saturday we’re going to have barbecue starting in the spring. It’ll be a Saturday special with barbecue. Everything will be using a New Mexican twist, like the red chile ribs.”

Look for some new beers from Kaylynn this year, as well as the return of some old favorites. She also promised to be back at festivals this year after taking 2016 off.

Overall, the promise of a new location, with more food options, and more beer, is more than enough to get us excited for Nexus in 2017 and beyond. We are thankful for them carving out a niche in our brewing scene, even if we have to carve an extra notch in our belts after some of our meals there.

Thank you to Ken and Kaylynn for taking the time to chat, and to let us break the big news again.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

After being stuck in place for the last three years, Turtle Mountain has big plans for 2017.

After being stuck in place for the last three years, Turtle Mountain has big plans for 2017.

Franz Solo here. At long last, I’ve had a chance to actually get to my remaining Look Back/Look Ahead Series articles. Life sometimes has other plans for you than you desire and that’s definitely a good bit of what kept these on the backburner. Without further ado, I was able to hang out with both head brewer Mick Hahn and owner Nico Ortiz for Turtle Mountain’s entry in the series for 2016-17. This is a bit of a tale of purgatorio and, with a bit of luck, the first steps towards a bit of paradiso in the year to come. I ended up doing this in two sessions, so first we will have my conversation with Mick and thereafter my time with Nico.

We began over a tray of most of the brews on tap, as I had not had many of them in a while. I wanted to get my feet wet with some of the possible differences in the beers stemming from the 2016 change in brewers at Turtle, when Mick came over from Marble to replace Tim Woodward, who is now with Bosque.

(Editor’s note: This interview was trimmed due to its length and because much of it relates to events in December. — S)

Solo: So, look back, look ahead, you were here for half of this past year?

Mick: Yeah, I was here for about half the year.

Solo: Are you making any big changes?

Mick: I don’t know if I’m making any big changes. There’s a couple beer lineup changes that are happening. We did get rid of the Oku Amber as a regular, and we’re bringing in the Red Rye Redux as a throwback nod to a classic style that was a staple of our house for a long time, and it was good to bring it back. We had one batch that sold out way too quickly, so I’ve got a double batch that I brewed last week and hopefully it stays on tap for a month or so. Since the Oku was our only gluten-reduced beer, the Red Rye is taking place of that. We’ve also stepped that up and have our cream ale, which is (now) gluten reduced. Right now we have two gluten-reduced beers and we’re looking to have at least three of them on at any given time.

Solo: Yeah, I can’t say that gluten-free beers have been my favorite in the past, but these are quite palatable and taste spot-on to the style.

Mick: So, really with the White Labs enzyme it doesn’t do much to the flavor of the beer, it just makes it palatable for those people who can’t handle the gluten. It’s worthwhile especially for a couple of beers or so.

Solo: So, I don’t actually know much about your brewing background at this point.

Mick: I worked at Marble for about three years prior to getting pulled up here. I started on the packaging line sorting bottles, and I was on the brewhouse for the last year and a half there. The one beer I got out while I was there under my own volition was the (Mick’s Mack), and so I brought that up here and have the McSmack as a nice secondary take on it.

Solo: Any particular stylistic things you want to do or are kind of your forte?

Mick: I’d say I haven’t been brewing long enough to have a forte. So, I’m really just going for everything that I do know how to brew, and have a few things that I’ve wanted to brew and haven’t yet had a chance to. I’m going to do a double-batch barleywine (He means Depravity, which is still on tap.) so that’ll be pretty good.

Since somebody forgot to take a picture with the interview, Mick was kind enough to send us a brewery selfie, which is really the only acceptable kind of selfie.

Head brewer Mick Hahn has not had too much of a hair-raising experience at TMBC.

After discussing other beers that are now available at TMBC, including the two red ales, we spoke about the Cocomilia Robur, the first brett beer that Mick has brewed.

Mick: Right now we’ve got a bit of a backup on specials. We’re not going to have anything go offline for four weeks, so this will be what we have for awhile. The first that will probably go out is the Cocomilia Robur, which is our brettanomyces plum cream ale that was aged nine months in our barrels, with the second generation of brett that those barrels have had. We then filled up those barrels each with something different, so they’re running two different projects right now. Hopefully this summer we will have two different beers that turn out and have some more funky brett.

Solo: (after a taste of the plum brett) I like that it’s actually a little milder than other sours I’ve had.

Mick: Yeah, it’s got a good bit of brett on the nose, but it’s not overly tart, it’s soft, it’s fruity, and you get a little bit of honey (and) a little bit of vanilla from wood. It’s a good beer. I’m really happy with how that turned out, even though I didn’t have a damn thing to do with the production of it. All I said was all right, it’s time to come out.

Another seasonal no longer on tap that I tried was the Rise of Fall, which was made with butternut squash instead of traditional pumpkin. If Mick goes through with some tweaks to the recipe this fall, he may enter it at the Great American Beer Festival.

Mick: Yeah, actually we did 50 pounds of butternut squash and roasted it in the wood-fired oven, and then threw that in the mash, and then did one pound of pumpkin spice. I’m pretty happy with that, but next year I want to up the butternut squash, and try and cut out the spice and see if we can get away with just a nice squash beer.

Solo: Sounds good to me.

Mick: They had the squash and yam beer category at GABF and they had just 10 entries into it.

Solo: So, is that something you’re aiming for?

Mick: If it’s that small of a category, why not? Especially given that they didn’t award a gold or a silver, they only awarded the bronze for it because other people put pumpkin spice in it. If we can get away with just doing butternut squash and have a solid beer that has a little creamy field flavor to it, I’d be happy with that. I’m happy with how that beer turned out. I was reluctant to do a pumpkin beer, but for an autumnal seasonal I think it’s a good one.

Solo: I like the change-up with the squash instead of pumpkin.

Mick: Yeah a lot of people use butternut squash in their pumpkin pies as a filler, which is good because pumpkin is a very overwhelming flavor. How many breweries have a wood fired oven so we have that opportunity to do it and why the hell would we not? The last two (samples) on the tray are our Hopshell (IPA) and our Cargill IPA. We tried some malt from a new distributor in Denver called Cargill, so that’s where that comes from. We gave an entirely different hop build to it. I’m really happy with where the Hopshell is at right now.

Solo: Agreed, this honestly has come a ways in the past couple of years. I know you pulled some better hop contracts in the past year so that is definitely paying off.

Mick: Tim left me with a lot of good hops. Hopshell has been selling out the past two batches, and I’ve gone from like three or four days from having it on tap between batches and they just keep selling faster and faster, which is an excellent problem to have.

Solo: What hops are you using in that one?

Mick: So, that one has got Columbus, Summit, Mosaic, Southern Cross, Comet, and Simcoe. And then, the dry hop is Simcoe, Mosaic, Comet.

Solo: Yeah definitely got that wonderful Simcoe/Mosaic balance going on there.

Mick: Most of the time I really feel that those two, especially Mosaic needs Simcoe (to) balance it. I think Simcoe can stand alone by itself pretty well, but Mosaic is such an intense hop and it leaves so much behind. And then this one (Cargill) has got Azacca, Mosaic, Equinox, Simcoe, and Citra. And then, dry hopped with Azacca, Simcoe, Citra.

Solo: “Kang” (yes that was my reaction, typical of a cornucopia of hops assaulting my pallet), good stuff man.

The winter beer lineup at Turtle Mountain has been strong. (Photo courtesy of TMBC)

The winter beer lineup at Turtle Mountain has been strong. (Photo courtesy of TMBC)

Mick: Yeah, I like it a lot, it just came out Friday. That’ll probably be the first one to go offline.

Solo: Yeah, I would say so. Spicy, piney, grapefruit, pineapple …

Mick: That one’s good. I think Cargill is really tasty. 7.3 percent on that one and 7.1 percent on our house IPA.

Solo: Which is right where you want to be.

Mick: Yeah I don’t want to have a house IPA that’s lower than 6.7 percent. Seven percent is a great place to keep it at.

Solo: Especially since you want to have a base that will hold up to massive amounts of hopping. Are you guys still looking to do more distribution?

Mick: We are still looking into it. It’s been a fun transition since me coming in here, but one of my plans is hopefully at the first of the year to get our beer pouring at at least half-a-dozen other places in town. I know there was a lot in the past that held that up, but I don’t see any reason for that to be the truth now.

Solo: Yeah, I kind of figured this would be a little bit of a slower year, just recovering from the fiasco that was the parking lot and the fire suppression system.

Mick: Yeah, so I’m ready to start pushing my beer. One of the things I wanted was to wait to get a solid lineup so that I know I can take this beer to a bar and say, hey this is what we have, this is what we’re going to be having, this is what you can expect from us without having to worry about having a significant change down the road. I wanted to make sure that the beers were something that I was proud of and would be happy taking door to door.

Solo: Did a bit of tweaking, I’m sure.

Mick: Yeah, for most of them. I really think the cream ale I haven’t really done anything with except for making it gluten free. The Helles I haven’t done anything with, but it’s actually leaving our lineup, this is its last batch for a while. I’ll probably do something next spring with it. We are bringing the Wooden Teeth up into a full time position. Yeah, I like the Wooden Teeth, it’s a good lager.

Solo: Yeah, it’s interesting seeing the shift now that craft lager is a thing.

Mick: I’m going to have an amber lager, a copper lager coming out in about a month. (Can’t Catch Me is now available.) I’ll be brewing that one this week, too. That’s the Cargill malt as well. That one got a fun all-German hopping, I got some Taurus off the spot market, so that was the base and then Hallertau Blanc and then Mittelfruh.

Solo: Do you think you are going to do anything a la the bottling you did a couple of years back at some point?

Mick: Absolutely, the (only) question is when. So, I would like to get to the point where we are bottling like twice, or three times a year, and doing some 22-(ounce bottles). Really the hard thing is we don’t have the space in here to do that most of the time. So, yeah, I’d really like to get some bottles out there, the question is what style as well. We need to make sure that we have something that’s worth putting into bottles. I mean, we also still have a case or case and a half left of the Wilde Jagd. Nico keeps talking about starting up canning as well, which we currently do not have a space for. But, that would take some changes to the set-up, but I have some ideas about how we might make that work. If we want to start pushing more beer outside these walls we need to step up our game.

Solo: So, about the same place we were last year around this time, we’re just one removed and aimed for the same goals?

Mick: Yeah, thankfully the switch over didn’t include too many steps backwards. I got to work with Tim for three weeks before he went to Bosque, so it was a good transition. I’m happy with it and I’m pretty sure he’s happy with it.

Now that this is done, it's time to move on to bigger and better things! (Photo courtesy of TMBC)

The parking lot was a drain on time and resources, but now the brewery can move forward. (Photo courtesy of TMBC)

With that we ended our conversation and I returned the following week to talk with Nico.

Solo: All righty, another Look Back/Look Ahead, here we are.

Nico: Look back, man, 2016 was a good year in some respects, not as good as Boxing Bear’s year, but the good year had nothing to do with the brewery, so to speak. We didn’t win any awards, we did a lot of major upgrades to the brewery that were sort of delayed maintenance projects that will enable Nick and Evan to more easily make better beer. So, that was positive. It’s not glamorous, it didn’t win any medals, there’s no accolades for that, and it’s going to cost money instead of make money. The big thing for 2016 was our parking lot. That was just a ridiculously large project. It was $350,000 that I could have spent any number of ways that would have made me happier and would have actually generated money. I did not have a choice in this matter so that’s sort of, while everyone else here was opening taprooms, that hobbled me and did not allow me to open up a taproom.

So, looking back, I’m glad it got done, but I’m also pretty upset that Turtle has not had the ability to utilize any of its taproom licenses thus far. But, in 2017, we’re hoping that’s going to change. So, looking back is not so important as the looking forwards. Looking forwards to 2017, I’m going to put in for our wholesaler’s license. We fought so hard two years ago to get that distributor’s license for restaurant breweries, you know for Rod (Tweet of Second Street), for me, for anybody that has that beer and wine license attached to their business. And, we got that through and I had thought about putting in for the license right away, but then Tim told me, well, it’s not just the license, it’s the cooperage, it’s a delivery vehicle, it’s another staffed person. If you want to actually, honestly distribute beer, it’s expensive, and so that obviously got back-burnered while we had that parking lot issue.

I want to at least be able to take our beer in draft form to local accounts. I’m not talking about citywide distribution or anything, well, maybe Rio Rancho citywide, but not metro city wide. At least be able to have the license, that way I get it and all I have to do is renew it, because everybody and their brother is distributing now, so I need to be able to stay on even par. It’s going to mean some minimal cooperage. I don’t know if we’re going to justify a delivery vehicle, but that’s definitely on the plans for 2017 as well as a taproom, utilizing one of our taproom licenses. We haven’t figured out where, we have a few ideas in mind, but we have three of them (licenses), and for restaurant breweries that’s the way you generate money.

Beer is the highest margin product that we sell. (In) the restaurant business, the food service is only getting more expensive and more complicated. The beer business continues to be actually more fun to be a part of, so that’s kind of where we’re looking is none of this restaurant stuff small footprint, probably going to have a pizza oven because Turtle, just like Nexus, is tied to its food. So, the curse of having been a restaurant brewery for 18 years is that everybody associates the pizza and the beer. They don’t look at either without the other. I actually don’t have a problem with putting in a pizza oven, but we’re not going to be doing any kind of a massive footprint place like this. I’ve been to most of the taprooms, the little Canteen taproom up in the heights, I like something like that — small, maybe (room for) 50 or 60 people, 70 people, something modest. It isn’t a big deal to stick a pizza oven in the back, something modest, and just do that. It’s where you start talking about massive coolers and hoods and things like that. Probably most of the prep work for this will be the first half of 2017, sometime in the second half of 2017 we may start to see a lot of this stuff come to fruition.

Solo: Amen to all of the above. If anyone deserves to have a streak of success and good luck it is assuredly Turtle. I, for one, am stoked at the prospect of a Turtle taproom/pizza oven combination, combined with distribution and the delicious results of good hop contracts and good house beer changes and creations.

Nico: I hated to be on the sidelines for the last three years. The whole parking lot started in 2014 and now we’re at the end of 2016. So, for all of 2014, 15 and 16 I’ve had to be on the sidelines. And, that has not made me happy. However, it certainly has enabled me to take a closer look at the market and everything that has been going on, and seeing where people are looking, and seeing what quality of beer is out there. It’s enabled me to gather a lot of intel, I’d rather benefit from other people’s successes and or failures than actually the first one who’s out the gate. For that reason, we’re somewhat happy. Things haven’t changed that much.

Getting Turtle Mountain tap handles at other locations is a priority for 2017. (Photo courtesy of TMBC)

Getting Turtle Mountain tap handles at other locations is a priority for 2017. (Photo courtesy of TMBC)

Solo: Overall, the market has not changed much and this is about what I had figured, considering what you have gone through in the last several years.

Nico: If you look at Second Street, too, Second Street turned 20 (in December) and Rod, they opened up the taproom downtown, which was four or five years ago. But, it took them, they’re 20 years old and they’re now just getting ready to expand. Whereas if you look at somebody like Marble and La Cumbre, six years old they’re already where Rod is 20 years down the road. So, the first 10 years of our life was spent in a market that was not like it is now. The last 10 years, well, probably since Marble came around really (in 2008), that right there is probably the resurgence and the point zero of the current beer market. When Marble opened up, that was point zero, so you have to look at everything since that time.

The fact that we’re still open after 18 years come March is great, but we need to leverage that and we need to make sure that people come out here. There’s still a lot of people here in Albuquerque, I saw there’s a trolley doing a tour of breweries downtown, there’s a lot of breweries downtown, but no trolley is ever going to come out to Rio Rancho. Even Justin (Hamilton of Boxing Bear) down the hill, he’s in Albuquerque so you could hit Alameda and do Boxing Bear and Bosque, but you don’t just come bend up the hill to come to Rio Rancho. So, we’re still after 18 years kind of the hinterlands, the outpost. Which is fine, we do well out here and if you want to come out here, you’ll find a way. We’re not that far away from Albuquerque.

Solo: Not a far drive at all given what we Burqueñas and Burqueños are used to, and well worth it, in my humble opinion. Turtle is a great joint for a pint, a pint and a pizza, hockey (only if the Pens are playing, ha!), soccer, and all the other good sports. The addition of the parking lot has made a world of a difference. Gone are the days of worrying about backing up into that blasted circular wall or finding that cherished striped spot. In the lap of luxury we house our steeled steeds, and drink we will of Mick’s fine brews.

Nico: I’m happy to see Flix Brewhouse opening up. The west side has always been sort of dry. I mean there’s 250,000 people that live on this side of town and there’s precious few breweries on this side of the river, so that’s where we’re looking. So, we’re not looking on the other side of the river for expansion just yet. I mean, we still have a few people from the (northeast) heights coming over here, but just as much as I don’t like crossing the river to their side, they don’t like crossing over here to my side. It’s that psychological barrier. So, we’re going to stick to our side of town. We have a few ideas as far as where we’re going to go. Definitely look for Turtle Mountain to do something in the second half of 2017.

Mick and Evan have been having fun with the beers in the back. Our minimal barrel aging program still (continues); we have our brett plum ale on now. We will be continuing on with that. He’s crafting new recipes and I kind of give him wide latitude to do what he wants back there. The other impetus for some minimal distribution and a taproom is that it gets frustrating with having 13 serving tanks in the back, but we only have one place to sell the beer.

Look for more new and innovative seasonals this year. (Photo courtesy of TMBC)

Look for more new and innovative seasonals this year. (Photo courtesy of TMBC)

Solo: Yeah, and he (Mick) was explaining the same thing — I might have all this stuff ready to go, but until something kicks, I have no space to put it.

Nico: We have 13 taps and if a beer is really really good, but doesn’t sell all that quickly, it sits back there and takes up a tank from a beer that would otherwise be able to sell really quickly. If we can keg it down and take it offsite, then we could actually put it on tap either at an offsite account or at a taproom. It would enable more throughput of the beer and more throughput generates more money, which enables us to add more infrastructure into the brewery, and anybody that has taprooms understands that. The brewery itself is a lot of fun in terms of Mick gets to order grain and hops, Tim got them (hop contracts) in place, and now Mick is benefiting from it.

Solo: Definitely, and I remember exactly talking to Tim and saying, OK, so you’ve got this on line, this on line, this on line, and then that’s going into your Hopshell, your other specialties, and it’s fantastic.

Nico: We got the Mosaic, we got the Citra, we got some of the hard-to-find hops and the contracts are solid. So, Mick now actually has … you know the tough thing about tweaking recipes is that well Tim was constantly having to modify recipes based on the hops we had available. It’s a little hard though once you find a sweet spot, if your hop contract runs out, and you don’t have that kind of hop, well then, you’ve got to modify the recipe. In a brewpub environment it’s not that bad because certain minimal changes to recipes are expected, but if you’re going to can it and put it out on the market you need to have that consistency. We’ve definitely benefited from consistency as a restaurant-brewery. We never really had house beers before Tim came on, so we’ve modified them a little bit, but five of the six beers that Tim developed are still here. We are still tweaking and we will continue to have those. At some point in the future I would consider canning, but it is getting awfully crowded out there, and New Mexico still does not have that many people, and the shelves are getting crowded with beers.

Solo: Left and right, you know, people are coming in every day. We’ve got Great Divide coming down, we’ve got everything else coming in. Shelf space is at a premium and getting filled with lots of really good offerings and a fair number of equally subpar offerings.

Nico: Oh, yeah, there’s going to be some sort of shakeout where you have a whole bunch of beer vying for the same spaces. I’d rather do taprooms, max out my taprooms, and get the $5 pint type of a thing than I would invest in a $100,000 canning line and a big ol’ facility. It is nice, but a lot of it is glory and ego. There is a lot of marketing to it, but I also don’t have a 30-barrel brewhouse.

You get that catch-22 of you need to have the money to invest in the infrastructure in order to make the beer, but the sale of the beer is the stuff that generates the money to invest in the infrastructure, but you can’t sell the beer unless you have the infrastructure you need to make the beer to sell the beer. And, you start chasing your tail like this. That’s the curse of this business is you have to have a ready source of capital and if you have to wait until it comes from operations it takes you time.

As far as 2017 goes we got a lot of the burden off of our shoulders (already). We’re busy paying off some stuff, capital will free up during the year, so that we can finally actually make some strides. We are looking forward to it. Finally, after what amounted to being in orbit without doing anything for three years, we’re finally going to leave orbit and take off and continue our 18-year mission to explore strange new business adventures and such. We were in orbit for three years and it broke my heart to see all of these people doing all of this expansion, and all of this stuff, and my hands were tied and it was frustrating. But, it also meant that I couldn’t make any mistakes or rash decisions.

This has been well thought out over three years. I think we certainly have all of the raw materials we need. We have the excess capacity in the system. We (still) have to get some new cooperage. We have to do a little more work in the brewery, but we have the ability to easily service one taproom, probably two, with the given system that we’ve got. I know Mick would love to have more throughput on the beer so he can make more beer. We’re bottlenecked by how quickly the beer sells, and if we weren’t necessarily bottlenecked by that we could have more styles on tap. Mick could go in new and different directions. It’s finally just exciting to not be stuck and not have to worry about watching from the sidelines, to be able to be back in the game.

* * * * *

With that we end another edition of Look Back/Look Ahead for Turtle Mountain. Here’s to a successful mission to explore new potential taprooms, and hopefully the subsequent advent of even more delightful brews by extension. May the coming months ring true for these well thought out plans as we west-side beer aficionados would love to see more successful ventures in our neck of the woods.

Prost!

— Franz Solo