Archive for the ‘New Brewery Preview’ Category

The finished interior of Bombs Away Beer Company looks great.

I recently took a peek at the website for Bombs Away Beer Company for clues as to when they would open. I was shocked to find out they already had. Apparently, they just had a soft opening a few days prior. Although I already had plans right after work that day, curiosity and impatience got the best of me. I decided I had to stop by there, even if it was just for a few minutes, and at least try a couple of beers. It turns out they don’t sell the sampler pours individually, and I didn’t want to ask for a few free samples and leave without buying any beer, so I took on the challenge of consuming a full sampler of six beers in just over 10 minutes. (I was not driving, FYI.)

I am very glad I did. Unlike with many new breweries, the beer did not suffer from a lack of carbonation. This was not “thin” beer. There are also an impressive number of house-brewed beer styles on tap for a new operation.

I briefly spoke with brewer David Kimbell and told him that I was impressed by the quantity of beer out of the gate, as well as the carbonation levels. Kimbell, who is a first-time head brewer (although he has brewing experience at La Cumbre, Santa Fe, and Kellys), said he did go through multiple batches before he decided the beers were ready for public consumption. I guess I chose my samples well, despite being pressed on time, because Kimbell said that their amber is a little under-carbonated, but that it works fine for the style. I didn’t try the amber, so I cannot compare it to the others. He also said he is still trying to dial in the lager. I did not choose the lager, either.

The beers I did sample were: Willie Pete Wit, Short Fuse Blonde, Wild Card Spiced Ale, Brisance Bitter, B.A.B.C. IPA, and Low Order Porter. Descriptions of their current beers can be found on their website. My favorites were the Bitter and the Porter. The Bitter was very true to style and very easy-drinking. It’s not overly complex, but highly satisfying. The Porter was all roasty goodness with coffee and tobacco notes (in my opinion).

A delightful first flight of six of the eight available beers.

It was hard to choose favorites because all six were beers I could see myself ordering again. Perhaps the only minor letdown for me was I would have liked more spice on the Spiced Ale. It’s a good beer, I just expected more of a fall seasonal taste. The IPA is a New England-style, hazy IPA. For those looking for over-the-top hops, this is not that kind of IPA. It worked for me because I like a lighter IPA style.

The space is inspiring and they did a wonderful job with the décor. Kimbell said they built everything themselves (tables, bar, etc.). The location, at 9801 Acoma near Moon and Central, is very convenient for beer lovers who work at Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Labs. Until I looked at their website, I had no idea there was a Skyline Heights neighborhood of Albuquerque.

Despite the lack of formal announcements that they are open, there were about 15 to 20 patrons in there when I stopped by early on a Tuesday evening. I have a feeling that those people looking for a Southeast Heights brewery hangout have fully acquired their target.

Cheers!

— AmyO

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All that scenery around Truth or Consequences was just screaming for a brewery. Or at least that’s what we heard.

Typically when one thinks of Truth or Consequences, Elephant Butte Lake often is the first thing to comes to mind. However, a new crew has been making some serious strides to turn things around in hopes of bringing craft enthusiasts, visitors, and the locals all together.

In the heart of downtown T or C (as it’s often referred to) sits a small brewery that is definitely making its mark on the town. Walking in the doors at Truth or Consequences Brewing, your attention is immediately drawn to the dramatic wooden trusses and the polished concrete floors. If you’re like me, your attention then darts to the new shanks and taps on the wall beyond the inviting and clean look of the bar.

After ordering a beer, I sat down with co-owners John Masterson and his wife Marianne Blaue.

“T or C used to be a real party town,” John said. “There used to be 16 bars within a two-block radius of where we are now. There are now zero, and that’s just due to liquor law changes and the inflation of the value of liquor licenses. I’ve talked to a lot of the older residents around here who talk about the 70s and 80s, and how it used to be a challenge to try to have a drink at every bar downtown. It’s a recreation paradise. There’s miles of trails all around the mountain, then we have New Mexico’s largest body of water, and the Rio Grande for tubing and fishing. We even have the spaceport!”

Originally from Missoula, Mont., then Seattle, John and Marianne decided to plant their roots in New Mexico, and they haven’t looked back.

Welcome to Truth or Consequences Brewing.

“We discovered this town two years ago,” John said. “We both worked in the tech industry in Seattle for about four years. We pursued our tech dream, but after (that) we just needed something different. So, we decided to move somewhere that was the complete opposite in terms of weather, topography, and local economy. We had decided to do a New Mexico road trip, and we were on our way to Silver City after looking at ‘Things to Do in New Mexico’ on a two-week road trip. After renting a car and starting our drive, we realized that there was no way we would make it to Silver City before dark, so we decided to stop in Truth or Consequences because it had a Holiday Inn and the town had a funny name.

“We woke up in the morning and decided to take a walk to get breakfast. We just fell in love with the town. While we were walking around, we were talking about how amazing the town is and how we should maybe get a vacation home or something. We knew we wanted to come back. So, we decided to get a beer and talk about it. We looked around, and there was nowhere to get a beer. And the pieces kind of fell together. We were ready to pull the rip cord on the Seattle scene, but there was nowhere to get a beer. So, we had to create a place to get a beer.”

John certainly isn’t new to brewing. He has been homebrewing for more than 10 years, is a recognized contest winner, and also has some experience in a few of CNM’s Brewing & Production Management courses.

“My first batch of homebrew was when I was still in school in Missoula, Montana,” John said. “I really just wanted good, cheap beer. When I went to the store, I could either get good beer or cheap beer, but there wasn’t really good cheap beer. So, that was the inspiration for me to start making my own. Fast forward another 10 years, I had a really sweet 10-gallon setup and a four-tap kegerator, and I got a lot more into the art and science of it all. I actually won a local homebrew contest. The prize was that I got to go to Big Sky Brewing and brew my recipe with the head brewer, Matt Long. He scaled up my homebrew recipe and scaled it up to their 40-barrel system. That was my first time brewing in an actual brewery. It was a really exciting experience!”

Guest taps are flowing three nights a week.

In a scene that is blossoming with innovation and pushing the envelope, T or C Brewing is looking to really make its mark on the map, especially with its geographical position benefiting beer lovers by bridging a large gap between the larger breweries in the north towards Albuquerque and its surrounding areas, and the southern portions of the state, namely Las Cruces. Speaking of geography, the area of T or C brings also another interesting boon to its communities, and possibly even the brewing process.

“We hope to become a destination brewery for people to add to and check off their list,” John said. “That’s really what we strive for, actually. We hope that by becoming a destination brewery, we will also help bring business to the town. You know, this is a hot springs town. A lot of these hotels have hot springs in the rooms. That’s hot mineral water warmed by lava from the Earth! A lot of folks say it’s healing water. It has lithium in it and almost no sulfur in it.”

In such a small community, the prospect of a new watering hole downtown has seemingly garnered a great deal of support from the city itself, especially as it has slowly transformed during its creation into a smaller music venue as well, with a stage and open area just short of the brewhouse equipment, yet large enough to accommodate even the most eccentric of dance routines.

“We have had a lot of community support,” Marianne said. “We had to get a variance from the city 18 months ago when they bought the building, so the community has been anxious for us to open for a year and a half now. We have been engaging the community with newsletters updating them on their progress.”

The goal is to begin brewing and filling these tanks in August.

Even without a larger sign in place out front, newsletters taped to the windows had achieved the goal of drawing in locals to investigate the new brewery, and garner a great deal of anticipation for the grand opening, proving that this town is definitely in need of a much needed craft beer.

“We want to have our grand opening party near the end of September,” Marianne said. “We will officially be out of the soft opening stages, and we plan to have at least three of our own beers on tap by then. Also, by the end of September, we hope to have a pretty flushed out event calendar. We have some amazing talent in this town, and we are located in an ideal place for touring artists. We have noticed that the whole community really comes together when we have live music playing.”

Truth or Consequences Brewing plans to have at least three of their beers on tap by the end of August, but don’t worry if that doesn’t seem like much now. John expects to not only have a solid staple lineup of beers fitting for the southern New Mexico feel and weather, but hinted at a particularly exotic ‘Unholstered’ line of unconventional and experimental beers.

At the time of this interview, the brewhouse was still in the process of being assembled, but will be a definite reason to make the trek back south once things are up and running. They are currently open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. until they are ready to add their own beers to the lineup, at which point they plan to be open seven days a week.

Thank you to John and Marianne for taking the time out of their busy schedule to talk. All of us in the Crew wish them luck in their endeavor.

Cheers!

— Shawna

All right, we gotta admit, a horizontal mash tun is odd, but the paint job is perfect.

The target is in sight at long last for Bombs Away Beer Company, which aims to join our craft beer community this year. It will be the first brewery in the Southeast Heights, located at 9801 Acoma, right near the intersection of Central and Moon. I had the chance to sit down with brewer David Kimbell and owners John and Hilary Degnaro last week to go over everything about their forthcoming brewery.

“I was in Afghanistan as an explosive ordinance disposal technician, that was my previous job in the Air Force,” John said. “I wanted to move on from that, try something else, so I spent the next couple years deciding what the next thing would be. I narrowed it down to (owning) a brewery and then I spent pretty much about five years to the day putting this together as far as getting the money together, what kind of brewery do I want to have, what equipment to take, so on and so forth.”

To make that final step, John needed a brewer. Enter David, who has brewed and worked previously at La Cumbre and Santa Fe after getting his start in a part-time role at Kellys.

“I had a business in college I started and ran for about four years,” David said. “Got out of that, didn’t know what I was going to do. I’ve always been into craft beer. I’m from Farmington originally so in high school, Three Rivers, all my buddies worked there. I took about a five-week road trip all over the West Coast, Portland, San Francisco, everywhere. I slept in the back of my truck the whole time. I checked out breweries and right before I left to do that I had already lined up a job at Kellys working part-time. As soon as I started I knew I wanted to open up a brewery, and now I’ve been lucky enough to meet these guys.”

There is plenty of stainless steel in the back of Bombs Away.

David spent just shy of two years at La Cumbre, where he credits the likes of owner/master brewer Jeff Erway, director of brewing operations Daniel Jaramillo, and head brewer Alan Skinner with imparting so much of the knowledge he needed to run his own brewhouse.

“(Jeff) was amazing,” David said. “Man, I learned everything from there. I worked at a couple other breweries, but at La Cumbre, the passion level there is out of the roof and obviously the talent is out of the roof. Learning from Daniel and Alan, I wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for them.”

David also later added that Santa Fe Brewing brewmaster Bert Boyce has been a great mentor during the process of opening Bombs Away.

While Bombs Away is joining an increasingly crowded craft scene in town, John said the relatively isolated location should keep them from being swallowed up.

“Well, first off, I don’t think the scene is (too) crowded,” John said. “There are more breweries here than there used to be, but that doesn’t make it crowded. Secondly, we’re in a part of town there’s really not a whole lot going on. There’s a whole lot that’s starting to come in here, but we’re the only brewery over here.”

Because of that, Bombs Away will not be overly thematic, even with its obvious military ties and location close to Kirtland Air Force Base.

We’re digging the light fixtures made out of old explosive rounds.

“I’d like a nice touch of that but I’m not going to say that’s what we’re setting out to do,” John said. “Yeah, absolutely, we want to hire vets, not just because of my background or our location, I just think they’re good people to employ. That’s something we’re keeping on the forefront, but I’m not saying you’re going to walk in here and see an all-vet staff. We’re not going to go with a military theme in the place. There’s a touch of it here and there.”

As the pictures show, the interior is fairly spacious and welcoming. There is an exterior area earmarked for a future patio, but it will not be part of the brewery out of the gate. The interior will have more than enough room for folks to enjoy their beer. John said he does not plan on having too many televisions or live music.

“I think a place like this to me is about people meeting and hanging out, having conversations, enjoying your beer,” he said. “I think really as long as the atmosphere is welcoming and comfortable, that’s all we really to do on our side is have a comfortable place where people can have a conversation. Provide the great beer and the rest kind of takes care of itself.”

There will not be a kitchen, but David said he already has connections to food trucks from his time at La Cumbre, so expect one to be parked outside most nights.

The bar area is just about ready to go. It will feature 15 taps.

The tap system had just been installed by the time I visited. There will be 15 total taps, giving David plenty of room for creative seasonals in addition to the year-round beers. Style-wise, David said he will not stick strictly to the guidelines for his beers, but he will not being going overboard, either.

“It’s (going to be) the beer we like to drink,” John added. “Drinkability, that’s high on our list.”

The sizable brewing room in the back has quite the unique setup. Rather than buy a whole brewhouse, Bombs Away has assembled its own equipment.

“I think something interesting that we’ve put together, it’s not a traditional brewhouse,” Hilary said. “Early on, we had all the stainless steel sitting in our backyard from different industries all around the country. The majority of everything here has been used somewhere else.”

The brewhouse is made up of a horizontal mash tun (see the top photo) and a 10-barrel kettle. There are 15-barrel fermenters in place, giving David the flexibility to go big with his beers or make smaller batches.

Another look at the non-traditional brewhouse.

There are also offices and an a side room that could be used for private gatherings. The building is big enough for potential expansion if necessary in the future. For now, though, it is just about getting those doors open.

“I don’t think we really want to give a timetable at this point,” Hilary said. “We’ve been wanting to open for a year. At this point, we just want to hold ourselves to it.”

“The City of Albuquerque hit us with (a delay),” John added. “We had almost five months where we sat on our hands thanks to our wonderful planning department. It’s to the point where we really don’t want to put a time on it, every time we have it’s always been a mess. We’ll be open when we’re open.”

Still, based on their progress to date and the fact their small brewer license with the State of New Mexico has been approved, the Crew will project an autumn opening for Bombs Away.

“One thing I’d like to add is I have a desire, there’s not much going on in New Mexico, but the beer scene is killing it and I have the desire to make this the best beer scene in America,” David said. “I think we’re getting there, the beer quality is amazing here for the most part, but I want to make sure we’re up there when we open.”

That is exactly the kind of confidence and enthusiasm we want to see from a new brewery.

Take note, Bombs Away is already looking to start the hiring process for servers and beertenders. You can email your resume to bombsawaybeer@gmail.com.

All of us in the Crew look forward to heading back over to Bombs Away right before it opens to try the beer and see the finished product ready to go.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The “coming soon” part of the sign will be removed July 1!

I’m happy to say that I have an update on what may be one of the longest anticipated brewery openings in the Albuquerque area for some time. Hops Brewery has been a project in the making for years, with a prominent location on Central Ave. in Nob Hill.

I’ll confess that I have been regularly driving by, hoping to see a sign with an opening date. This past Saturday, I was heading to lunch in Nob Hill and noticed that the front overhead door on Hops Brewery was open and there appeared to be some activity inside. After further investigation I met Austin Shull, son of Hops Brewery owner Jim Shull. Austin was kind enough to allow me to take a look around the inside of the nearly finished brewpub. I walked back past Hops again after I finished lunch down the street, and this time father and son were both at work inside. I interrupted what they were doing just long enough to get the inside scoop. I started by asking Jim to share the story of Hops Brewery to this point.   

The work is ongoing, but the finish line is in sight.

“It’s been an idea we have had for a while since the last 5 or 6 years and I had been in the restaurant business before and got out of that about a little over 15 years ago but decided that a brewery-slash-brewpub, looked like a pretty good idea,” Jim said. “So, we actually started with a location and got our brewers permit down in the village of Los Ranchos, and got through zoning and got to the point of the village trustees (telling me that) I was 285 feet away from Taft Middle School, but they had done variances before in the past. One of the trustees had a problem with it and so that ended that, which put us, of course, back to square one. You have to amend all your plans and find another place. And, at about that time this building came on the market, so we bought this building and went through the whole permitting process and planning process.”

Jim was quick to acknowledge that he can’t complain about the Central location that he ended up with, but his challenges were not yet over.

“And then we had some opposition from the neighbors, mostly the neighbors across the street,” Jim said. “That appealed our zoning decision way back when, so that stalled us for a while. We had to go through a few appeal processes and legal costs and stuff like that. And, then we finally got over that hump and then just standard building codes and that kind of stuff. So, it’s been a long haul but we are getting close. We can see daylight at the end of the tunnel for sure.”

All the equipment will be out of the way for the grand opening.

Aside from all of the legal/zoning/code challenges, the father-son team has also taken on a very labor-intensive, hands-on involvement in the building of their business.

“We’ve had some trades like dry wall guys and an electrician and that kind of stuff, but as far as we helped them do everything and then of course we would dig the trenches for the plumbing and took the plaster off the ceiling,” Jim said.

Austin interrupted, “How many tons?”  

“Ten tons, (that’s) 20,000 pounds,” Jim quickly responded.

“20,000 pounds of plaster, insulation, wiring … from the ceilings,” Austin clarified.  

OK, so then let’s get to it — what about the beer?

“We hired Ken Wimmer,” Jim said. “He’s a retired school teacher who has been brewing beer for over 25 years and really, really knowledgeable. In fact, he just got back from Scotland for three weeks, and so he’s made us six real good beers, four of which we made in-house, and then two where he went down and actually used Rio Bravo’s system along with their brewers John (Seabrooks) and Ty (Levis), and came up with something we could make a little bit bigger volume and a little bit more economical then a barrel at a time.”

Will there be food?

“We are going to have a limited food menu, 10-12 items, some appetizers, a few sandwiches,” Jim said. “I think we’re going to try opening for lunch.”

The bar will have 40 taps, 32 of which will be guest beers from other New Mexico breweries.

Drum roll please — is there an expected opening date?

“July 1 to the public, and hopefully soft openings a week to 10 days before that,” Jim said. “And, I know Ken wanted to invite you guys like before we open, just without the public here, just you guys so he can talk beer to you guys. That was one of his deals right from the get-go that we gotta do that before we open, and he’s just waiting for me to pull the trigger on when it’s time.”

Well, you don’t need to ask me twice. I didn’t think I could be any more eager to see Hops Brewing open, but after seeing the inside and talking to Jim and Austin Shull, my anticipation has only grown. Even though work inside is ongoing, the place already looks beautiful. I would describe it as being sleek, modern, and clean enough to be a trendy new bar in Nob Hill, but at the same time having the warm and inviting environment that one would expect in a neighborhood pub. The bar itself is very impressive, so impressive that it’s almost the only thing I remembered to get pictures of while I was there, with an eye-popping 40 taps.

“So, we will have 32 guest beers,” Jim said. “Of course, we will have a few New Mexico wines as well.”

I asked Jim if there was anything else he wanted to make sure he said before I let him and his son get back to work, and I think he very effectively summarized what he had spent the previous 10 minutes explaining.

“I want to apologize for the long delay,” Jim said. “It’s just it’s probably more work than anybody can imagine, and when you are trying to do 90 percent of it yourself, it even becomes longer than that. But, we haven’t skimped on anything, and we had to kind of rebuild a building even before we started.”

Thank you to Jim and Austin Shull for taking the time to talk to me, and for all of the effort they have put into Hops Brewery. The Crew wishes them the best of luck on finishing up the final touches this month. Can’t wait for more updates and, as always, we will keep you in the loop.

Cheers!

— deezbeers

It’s celebration time in Aztec!

A few weeks back I shared my experience visiting Three Rivers Brewery in Farmington, and as it turns out they are not alone in northwest New Mexico. I took another weekend trip to Durango at the beginning of April and found myself visiting yet another brewery before crossing into Colorado.

The new 550 Brewing Taproom opened at the beginning of 2017 in the historic district of Aztec, right off of its namesake, U.S. Highway 550. The father and son ownership team of Mike and Sean Paschall had been operating 550 Brewing out of a different location for about five years. They brewed exclusively for pleasure and serving at local events, but this Saturday their business will officially be in the next stage of its evolution when the taproom celebrates its grand opening.

The Paschall family has deep family roots in Aztec, and a direct involvement in several local businesses. The local community has already shown support for the taproom and will, without a doubt, be at the grand opening in full force.

The unique exterior of 550 Brewing.

The first thing I noticed when approaching the taproom was the great outdoor space. A nice tent with shaded seating was setup between the parking lot and the front door, along with plenty of other outdoor tables and seats in the larger part of the yard. The inside was quaint, yet adequate, and more importantly both clean and comfortable. I sat at the bar, which had eight tap handles, with six house beers and two guest taps from Marble.

The tap handles, old oilfield designs, followed the retro style of the bar, along with the antique cash register being used. However, the focal point behind the bar was (appropriately) the beer list.

“These are our staples … got a pretty good segment covered … you know what I mean,” said bartender and junior brewer Terry Martin. “We’ve only been open for about three months and we’ve had great business, but we’re trying to scale our brewing to that. Because, previous to that we’ve only done special events and now we have a permanent location.

“So, after we get a few back-order kegs of these, we’ll start experimenting, getting weird. Probably going to do a darker porter or double bock or something like that, and then probably hop something up, too.”

The tap handles and the beer board inside.

I was content with all six of the house beers (and actually a seventh on the way back from Durango after the Dry Irish Stout was replaced with Ginormous Stout), but I would say my favorite was definitely the apple cider. It satisfied my definition of a good hard cider — clean, refreshing, with a slight fruit taste, but not super sweet so that I have a stomachache after one. After the cider, I would say that I enjoyed both stouts and am excited to return and check on them as well as the upcoming “weird” stuff.

As always, we hope that 550 Brewing will be supported not only by their local community, but we also encourage the beer lovers across New Mexico to stop by at some point in 2017. There is no better time to show that support than at the grand opening this Saturday, but there is no bad time, either. Stop by next time you pass through town (and there are plenty of good reasons to pass through town). It’s also worth pointing out that 550 Brewing has a great website if you need it.

Yeah, they have a “Buy a Friend a Beer” board at 550.

The Brew Crew wishes 550 Brewing the best of luck at their grand opening and going forward!

Cheers!

— Deezbeers

The silo alone is hard to miss at Steel Bender.

This past Friday featured one of the better perks that comes with writing about beer, namely getting to experience a brewery before it opens to the general public. Steel Bender Brewyard welcomed four members of the Crew and representatives from multiple local breweries in for a special soft opening, giving all of us an advance look, and taste, at the first brewery in the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque.

We will say, right off the bat before anyone asks, that there is no firm grand opening date yet. Steel Bender will announce it, hopefully this week, and the Crew will make sure to share that information. Right now they are waiting on the completion of the main driveway off Second Street. The brewery is located along the west side of the road, which as many know is paralleled by a small drainage ditch. A much larger bridge/driveway had to be built for the brewery to accommodate multiple vehicles passing over the ditch, and construction is not yet complete.

For all of us on Friday, we had to come in via Fourth Street and a narrow alleyway, but upon arrival we were greeted by one of the largest parking lots of any brewery in town (go ahead and rejoice just at this fact). The brewery itself is located on the east end of the development, all of which is owned by the Chant family. Steel Bender will serve as the anchor tenant for what they hope will become a focal point for the entire Los Ranchos community.

The simple exterior of the building’s north-facing side.

Facing east and with a great view of the Sandias in the distance will be the brewery patio. The outdoor bar, which will have its own set of taps, was not yet finished, and the patio furniture was not yet in place as well. Two nice cornhole boards had arrived (they light up at night), so there will be some games to play outside where people can gather.

Inside the building was an impressive combination of stylistic designs, mixing metal, brick, and wood. The ceilings were high, but the sound was never overwhelming. The bar sits at the center, with plenty of seating wrapping all the way around it. There are separate tables and booths on all sides as well. There is even an expansion area on the south end, with pseudo-garage-like doors that can be pulled down to make it into a private dining area. Overall, the taproom had a warm, inviting feel to it. The staff, many of whom you will probably recognize from other breweries, were top-notch and able to handle the sudden onrush of thirsty brewers and beer writers.

The bright and inviting interior of the taproom.

There is a solid menu of pub food, with burgers, chicken, salads, appetizers, and more. Brew Crew Bullpen member Tom and I both got the pulled pork sandwich, whose sauce was made with the Blue Bullet Stout. The flavor was different than, say, the Piggly Wiggly at Canteen, but it was equally good and stands on its own. The fries were also on point as a side.

As for the beer, five of the six house beers were on tap, plus the two collaboration beers that Steel Bender has already brewed — Steel Maverick, a Belgian-style red made at Marble (natch), and Steel Can Porter, an American porter made over at Canteen. The other five included the aforementioned Blue Bullet Stout, an Irish dry stout available on CO2 and nitro, as well as the Lloyd’s 3 O’clock Kolsch, The Village Wit, Sparkfitter Amber, and Skull Bucket IPA. Only Red Iron Red was not quite ready for its debut, but it should be available by the time of the grand opening.

The Kolsch was quite tasty, and should be a winner with the warm summer months coming up. The Wit was popular as well with the crowd, while the other house beers drew mixed reviews. I enjoyed the IPA more than others, while the stout came up a little short for me. Of course, these are all the first batches, and with a brewer of the quality of Bob Haggerty, we expect they will improve quickly as he dials everything in on the system and hones in his recipes.

Well, hello there, inaugural flight!

Speaking of Bob, once we were finished stuffing our faces and talking to the many, many people we knew as they milled about, he took us on a tour of the brewery, starting in his barrel room. The small space is located on the west side, with a 60-60 feature, namely that it will always be kept at 60 degrees and 60-percent humidity, Bob said with a wide smile. He already had some barrels that he purchased from his old friends at La Cumbre, namely the brandy barrels that just recently held this current batch of Gracias Por Fumar.

“These will probably end up with a brett stout in them, I’d guess,” Bob said. “I’m a fan mostly of wine barrels. I like to brew with wine barrels. I’m not much of a spirit guy with beers. I think most of the time spirits overpower what I’m trying to do with the beer. When it’s done well, it’s really good. … But, I just don’t care for that. These will probably be for the stout and I’m going to put them against the wall in the expansion space. I’m going to line those walls with barrels, so that’s going to be sort of my brett room. Anything that’s just brett is going to sit there for about three months.”

There be barrels here, just waiting to be filled.

As for the barrel room, expect some even funkier creations to be in the works.

“This is going to be for more of the multi-culture sour beers,” Bob said. “My ambition, and I hope to be able to do this, is to do a gueze-style beer. I want to do a one year, mix it with a six month, mix it with fresh, put it in a bottle, let it ferment for six months in the bottle and that’s it.”

Needless to say, the only person more excited than Bob at this point may have been our friend Karim.

We moved into the main brewery room, which is still all bright and shiny.

Where the magic happens.

“Here it is, a 15-barrel Premier system,” Bob said of his brewhouse. “I’ve got three 15-barrel (fermenters) and a 30. The silo is right outside that door. I just decided on my base malt, so we’re just about to fill it up.”

Bob also just had his keg washer arrive, which should help with all the kegs he purchased from La Cumbre. Those will eventually have the Steel Bender logo on them.

For those who need a reminder of Bob’s background, he was originally a chef living in Maine when he decided he needed a change. He started working at Oxbow Brewing, and after the owner/brewer was injured in an accident, Bob said he had to take over. When Mrs. Haggerty took a job at the University of New Mexico some time later, Bob found employment at La Cumbre.

“I was at La Cumbre for about two-and-a-half years,” he said. “Then I had a chance to start (a new brewery), so I left, but that failed to launch. I started talking to the Chants, but it was too far out. So, I hooked up with Ponderosa and was there for a few months, and then I found out when this was really going to happen, I jumped at the chance. I took a couple months off to spend with my family (first), and then it’s been nose to the grindstone here since October.”

Our tour guide for the evening, Mr. Bob Haggerty.

Bob was extremely impressed by how Ethan and Shelby Chant have put everything together.

“One of the coolest things about this place is that everything was kept in house,” Bob said. “The Chants built this. They brought everyone, we’ve got plumbers, electricians, and metal workers, they’re all here, not contractors. This is the anchor for the development. When they were building the place, this was what they wanted. This is the building they’re going to use to shop it out. Hey, we can do anything. We just set up a brewery. You look at all the work here in here, it’s so clean. The workmanship is so awesome. All the overhead stuff is done well.”

That includes leaving room for additional tanks.

“We’ve got room for three more, we’ve got three more stubs there,” Bob said of adding fermenters. “So I think what we’ll do, as business picks up, is pull one of those 15s, put a 30 in its place, put two more 30s, and a 30 bright. That will enable us to package.”

Ah, yes, packaging, the biggest question breweries find themselves having to ask earlier and earlier these days.

“It’s just one of those things, the market is what the market is,” Bob said. “There’s lots of people getting into distribution. If this taproom is booming and we’re making good money, why the hell would we get into distributing?”

For now, the beer will be just available off this rather awesome tap system.

Initially, at least, it will not be about six-packs of cans or bottles, or mass producing the house beers for packaging and distribution to all four corners of New Mexico.

“My first thought was having the 750-(milliliter bottles) and 500s,” Bob said. “I’m a Belgian guy, I love Belgian styles. This is my first round. Everything that’s happening right now is the first round to get people (in the door). This is the first draft, but my passion is really for esoteric styles, Belgian stuff. I don’t brew to style.”

The more general house beers will always be available, but ultimately, the goal is to give the beer at Steel Bender a different identity than what is found elsewhere in town.

“There’s so much going on here in Albuquerque, that if you don’t come in with a niche, if you don’t come in with an angle, then you’re going to compete (directly) with Boxing Bear and La Cumbre and Marble,” he said. “You’ve got to come in with your own thing and I’m kind of looking at that as my thing. We’ll see where it goes.”

If the brewery does end up being a huge hit, Steel Bender has a fair amount of flexibility when it comes to future expansion.

“This is the anchor of the development,” Bob said. “There are, I think, four more pads. There are three more pads that need to be built first, then the fourth is being reserved to see what happens here. The fourth one is about 14,000 square feet right behind us. If this goes well, we’ll see what happens next.”

A forward-thinking, well-planned brewery is just the kind of newcomer we want to see joining our local scene.

It’s called Steel Bender, so yeah, it’s pretty metal.

All of us in the Crew who attended the soft opening — myself, Luke, Julie, and Tom — would like to thank the Chants and Bob for the invitation and the hospitality. The food and beer were top-notch for a brand-new place, and the overall atmosphere is warm, welcoming, and above all, fun!

As soon as Steel Bender has its grand opening, the Crew will be back for more. After all, combined with Bosque to the east and Boxing Bear to the west, it forms what Luke has already dubbed “The Beermuda Triangle.” We can see ourselves getting lost here quite often.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Valencia County has its first brewery since Tractor left Los Lunas.

Before she left on an overdue vacation, AmyO and her boyfriend Dave were already down in Valencia County last weekend when they decided to stop by Hub City Brewing in Belen. The new brewery had opened in December, but none of the Crew had been able to trek down to check it out down at 202 De Soto Ave., right by the Rail Runner station.

As of right now, AmyO said there was not a whole lot report. Hub City has been serving guest beers from Santa Fe and Sierra Blanca, but it has yet to make its own beer. She was told that the hope is to start brewing in the next two weeks or so. It has been a long, complicated process just to get the joint open, so patience has been a virtue for the owner and staff, which includes brewer Hector Santana Jr., formerly of Bathtub Row.

AmyO snapped some additional photos of Hub City during her brief visit.

The interior is small but cozy.

Guest beers are already on tap.

The 1-barrel brewing system is already in place. It was developed at a test lab by Coors in Boulder.

The Crew will head back to Belen once Hub City has its own beers available, at which point we will get the full story of how the brewery came to be and what are its plans for the future.

Until then, it is back to basketball coverage for me.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The taps are flowing at Drafty Kilt, with the Groundskeeper Willie Cream Ale quickly becoming a hit.

The taps are flowing at Drafty Kilt, with the Groundskeeper Willie Cream Ale quickly becoming a hit.

Just in case anyone out there missed it, Drafty Kilt Brewing became the 28th brewery in Albuquerque (33rd in the metro area) over the weekend when it officially opened for business. I finally managed to stop by and say hello to brewer/owner Mike Campbell on Sunday evening.

For those who missed our advance preview story, Drafty Kilt is located at 4814 Hardware NE, which is basically one block west of San Mateo, and a half-block south of McLeod. It is not far from the Movies 8. The taproom features a long bar and several tables. It does not serve food, though there are now some small snacks available such as pretzels and peanuts.

Mike has two of his own beers on tap, Groundskeeper Willie Cream Ale (5% ABV, 16 IBU) and Wee Beastie Scottish Ale (6% ABV, 20 IBU), with more beers coming in future weeks. The cream ale is darker in color than Nexus’ Cream Ale, but otherwise shares some similar characteristics. It is sweet, but not overly so. There is more of a malty breadiness apparent in the Groundskeeper Willie. It should do well whether it is warm or cold outside. The Wee Beastie is a smoky, peaty little beast, as the name might imply. It is nowhere near as sweet as many other Scottish ales around town, and that is a good thing. In many ways, it stands on its own.

The bar area features two guest taps for now. Growlers are already for sale.

The bar area features two guest taps for now. Growlers are already for sale.

Both are pretty darn solid for being the first two beers at a new brewery, but then again, this is hardly Mike’s first go-around. As a history lesson reminder, he brewed at the original Rio Bravo Restaurant Brewery downtown in the mid-1990s, followed by a long stint at Tractor in Los Lunas (1999-2007), and more recently at Cazuela’s in Rio Rancho.

Another bit of good news is that Mike and his wife, Sheryl, said they have been given the go-ahead to add a patio area outside in the spring. It will be located on the south side of the building, away from the parking lot. The metal garage door on that side will be converted to let people go in and out more easily. They also have secured more space in an adjacent building which they can use to store kegs, grain, and more, all of which has become needed as the current brewing area in the back has filled up quickly.

The Drafty Kilt interior is spacious and relaxing.

The Drafty Kilt interior is spacious and relaxing.

Overall, Drafty Kilt offers a comfortable, no-frills atmosphere. It is an old-fashioned taproom, with beer, a couple TVs, and quite the collection of old-school cans and bottles on the wall. It does not aspire to be anything fancy, just a relaxing place to enjoy a couple pints while winding away the day or night.

Stop by, check it out, and let us know what you think.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The wait is over, Flix Brewhouse officially opens today!

The wait is over, Flix Brewhouse officially opens today!

Just like everyone else, the Crew has been patiently waiting for the opening of Flix Brewhouse on the west side of town. A movie theater with its own brewery? What’s not to love about that? While they talked about being open hopefully by the time Rogue One: A Star Wars Story debuts in December, it turned out that things were revving up even faster at Flix. They will officially be open today (Thursday), just in time for the first screenings of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the sorta prequel series to Harry Potter.

Being good beer writers and all, new Bullpen member Shawna and I trekked over to Flix to meet with head brewer Will Moorman and assistant brewer Marisa Bernal for a quick tour of the space and a taste of the first two house beers that will be on tap. Eventually there will be six house beers, plus a series of rotating seasonals. Fear not, though, there are also 29 (!) guest taps, including lots of local favorites from Bosque, Boxing Bear, Canteen, La Cumbre, Marble, Santa Fe, and Sandia Hard Cider.

Head brewer Will Moorman and assistant brewer Marisa Bernal seem to be enjoying their jobs.

Head brewer Will Moorman and assistant brewer Marisa Bernal seem to be enjoying their jobs.

“We’ve got six house beers that we do year-round at every Flix location,” Will said. “On top of that, I have a grand total of 11 serving tanks. So, I’ve got five other beers that I’ll be doing throughout the year, as often as those tanks empty. I’m projecting doing 25 different seasonal beers. Hopefully I’ll have to do more than that.”

The six house beers at Flix are Flix Golden Ale, Lupulus IPA (both of which are already on tap), 10 Day Scottish Ale, Luna Rosa Wit, Satellite Red IPA, and Umbra Chocostout. Will said his first specialty beer will be an English brown ale. There are also plans to have beers made especially for big film releases. Look for Rebel Yell, a special porter, when Rogue One debuts in December.

Will said he knows Albuquerque beer drinkers have high standards that he expects to meet.

“As far as the beer scene goes, there’s a lot of really good beer here,” Will said. “I’m thoroughly impressed. I didn’t know what to expect, really. I come from Indianapolis. Indy is currently undergoing its own major craft beer boom. When I left there were 150 breweries in the state, somewhere around there. There was a new one opening every day.

“I think Albuquerque is of a similar population size. I think that this city could support a lot more. I don’t think it’s going to be a lot more giants. People are going to see a lot more smaller ones. I think the neighborhood brewpub is going to become a lot more popular here. I think it’s a good thing. … I’ve only been here for two months, but I think there’s a lot of room for growth.”

A whole lotta beer is available at Flix. There is another set of taps to the right of these.

A whole lotta beer is available at Flix. There is another set of taps to the right of these.

Like many other people in the business, Will got his start in craft brewing almost by chance.

“I think Albuquerque is exactly where the rest of the country is as far as stylistic drinking.”
“I was in my senior year of business school in Indiana,” he said. “I was looking for a part-time job. I was really not sure what I wanted to do. A buddy of mine started working at a brewery up in Lafayette, Indiana, called People’s. He was cleaning kegs and (telling me) it’s awesome. It’s great, everybody’s fantastic, and there’s beer everywhere. I thought maybe that will be interesting.

“So, I spent an afternoon hitting up every brewery in downtown Indianapolis. I ended up a Sun King getting a job filling growlers. I looked around and every single person I saw was laughing and having a good time. I wanted a job that’s physically engaging and fun, that I look forward to going to every day. When I graduated, do I take the salaried job offer in marketing that I’m probably not going to be ecstatic about, or do I make eight dollars an hour filling growlers and see if I can go from there, and see if this is something I’m truly interested in? And, it was. I’ve never looked back.”

Grab your pints and head on in!

Grab your pints and head on in!

Will eventually left Sun King to work at Great Fermentations, a home brew shop. From there he met the owner of Tow Yard Brewing, which was just starting up in downtown Indianapolis. After a few months of pestering, Will was offered a job as an assistant brewer.

“I worked there for about two-and-a-half years as the assistant brewer,” Will said. “We were running a 20-barrel system. Our head brewer left after a couple months, so it was me and another assistant who had not brewed on a system that size before. We turned out a lot of not-so-great beer, but we learned a lot because of that, a baptism by fire. After a couple years we started pulling some medals at the Indiana State Fair, which is one of the bigger national professional competitions. It was good to see that our beer was going in the right direction.”

So, how did a brewer from Indiana end up all the way out here in New Mexico? Chalk it up to a vacation and a little bit of luck.

“I was out here a year ago just to visit a buddy and do some hiking,” Will said. “I’d never been to New Mexico before. I just fell in love with the place. It was great, the food was awesome, the hiking was great. I casually made it a goal to start looking for a brewing job in New Mexico, about six months ago. I got a text message one day from the Flix brewer in Carmel, Indiana, who said — without knowing that I’d been here and that I was looking — ‘Hey, do you know anybody who’d be interested in being the head brewer at Flix Brewhouse in Albuquerque, New Mexico?’ Yeah, that kind of just jumped out at me.”

The serving tanks at Flix are above the bar area.

The serving tanks at Flix are above the bar area.

Now, Will gets to run his own brewery. The setup at Flix is somewhat unique. The brewhouse occupies the narrow, northeast corner of the lobby. There are fermenters alongside it, plus more on a second floor above. It is all rather vertical. The serving tanks are on the opposite side of the lobby, on a mezzanine level above the long bar area that runs from east to west on the south side.

The brewhouse occupies the northeast corner of the lobby.

The brewhouse occupies the northeast corner of the lobby.

Patrons can hang out in the bar area, ordering beer and food. No one says you have to go see a movie if you are visiting Flix. Or, say you are waiting a while for your screening, then you can eat and/or drink in advance. You can also order a beer and/or food at the bar and then take it inside the theater.

There are eight theaters, all ranging in different sizes. The smallest theaters will show art films and the like. The biggest, Theater 4, seats 218 people in front of a 55-foot-wide screen. Each row of chairs has a long table in front of them. You can pull out a tray toward you if you have food or a beer inside. There are little rows in between for people to walk through. Take one of the order forms, fill it out, and press a button, and one of the in-theater servers will see it (it is not visible to patrons unless they turn around, away from the screen) and come to you, pick up your order, and then deliver the food/beer to you. They are trained to stay low, as to not get in the way of patrons viewing the screen.

Your in-theater ordering forms.

Your in-theater ordering forms.

The food menu is extensive with a lot of pub-grub favorites. Flix Favorites include fish and chips, Bavarian pretzel, chicken tenders, chicken wings, carne asada street tacos, quesadillas, and, of course, hot buttered popcorn. Prices range from $5.50 to $11.95. There are also salads and wraps for your health conscious friends, ranging from $8.95 to $10.95. Flix has 10-inch personal pizzas with a variety of toppings, topping out at $12.50. There are also 10 different burgers and sandwiches, including a hot dog, thus proving once and for all that, yes, a hot dog is a sandwich. Those range from $9.95 to $11.50. You can also order some special desserts, including milkshakes and warm, fresh-baked cookies.

So, yeah, you might want to bike or run over, rather than drive. You will need to burn the calories.

Like we said, it is a vertical setup at Flix.

Like we said, it is a vertical setup at Flix.

Flix officially opens today (Thursday) with special screenings of Fantastic Beasts at 6, 7, and 8 p.m. Go to the official website now to make your reservations, which are highly recommended.

The Crew will see you all out there shortly. We will make sure to add Flix to The Week Ahead in Beer starting next week, to make sure to stay on top of what Will has available. We would like to thank him, and Marisa (an ABQ native, it should be pointed out) for their time and the tour. The samples of the Golden Ale and IPA were tasty, with the latter having a definite Northwest flavor theme. We look forward to going back and trying all the rest.

See you at the movies!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Wait, what, the 377 is open?!

Wait, what, the 377 is open?!

Surprise! A new brewery opened Friday afternoon in Albuquerque. It would be easy to miss that The 377 Brewery was pouring beers at the corner of Yale and Gibson, directly west of an ubiquitous Applebee’s. The 377 has no social media page, not Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, so in the end it was just word of mouth that the doors were open.

Our own AmyO was in the area when she found out, largely thanks to her rabid Lobo fandom. I will let her explain via the email she sent my way.

“Once a season the boys all stay overnight in the RV tailgate lot. I stay at one of the airport hotels and they come over in the morning and take showers. Dave asked me which one I was staying at this time and I told him it was one I haven’t done before. To explain the location I told him it is directly across the street from where 377 is. That got me wondering about when 377 would open. I Googled, found the website, and a phone number embedded on the map page. I called it and one of the owners answered. I asked him if they had an opening date. He said, ‘Yes. Today. In a few hours.’ It was a total coincidence. They got word the (small brewer) license finally came through that morning and they said, ‘Do not mail it. We are on the way now to pick it up.’ I was not sure it would really happen so I waited until I checked in to the hotel and ran across the street to see for myself.”

Yup, it's open!

Yup, it’s open!

Since I had already assigned AmyO to another story for the weekend, I went over on my own Saturday afternoon to check out The 377 for myself and give everyone an early preview.

A bit confused by the beers in the lineup, I emailed 377 head brewer Lyna Waggoner for some clarification. It turns out only the Black IPA is hers, brewed up at Enchanted Circle Brewing in Angel Fire earlier this year when she was filling in until Kyle Yonan was able to take over. Kyle was kind enough to return the favor by sending his Helles Lager, Peach Wheat, Plum Sour, and Oktoberfest down to Albuquerque.

Lyna said in her email that she is still not quite ready to brew at The 377, due to issues with the kettle burner and glycol lines that she hopes will be fixed this week. Once those fixes are made, she added that she is ready to brew up to five beers for the future grand opening of The 377, the date of which has not been determined.

Grabbed a flight, totally unaware only the Black IPA was made by The 377's brewer.

Grabbed a flight, totally unaware only the Black IPA was made by The 377’s brewer.

For now, I can at least say that the Black IPA was hugely popular with the Saturday afternoon crowd. It is milder and less hoppy than Santa Fe, but then again, time may have muted the hops. It was still a pretty solid beer, all things considered.

The space itself is a little different than other breweries. It sits on the northwest corner of Yale and Gibson, more easily accessible for traffic driving southbound on Yale or westbound on Gibson. There is a parking lot on the southwest side of the building. Outside, there is a small patio that is completely enclosed by a fence. You have to go in through the brewery to reach the patio. Inside, there is a sizable bar and a lot of tables, both two-chair high tables by the windows facing Yale, and low tables that can seat up to four in the area that eventually opens out to the patio. They do have televisions above the bar, for sports fans.

The 377 does not have food, but there is space for a future kitchen and plans to have it open in a few months, the bar staff told me. They do hope to have food trucks parked outside most days.

Guest taps will keep the brewery going for now. In addition to the Enchanted Circle beers, they currently have beers from Quarter Celtic, including Pedro O’Flanagan Mexican Lager, and Santa Fe, including State Pen Porter.

It's an old-school way of letting people know a brewery is open, but social media would be better!

It’s an old-school way of letting people know a brewery is open, but social media would be better!

Overall, The 377 has a comfortable atmosphere. There were several Air Force personnel hanging out at the bar on their day off. One would have to imagine Kirtland and Sunport employees could end up being a big portion of the customer base, along with college students and UNM and CNM employees as well. The presence of multiple nearby hotels should also help. Now, all The 377 has to do is get the word out there. AmyO found someone handing out printed fliers at the UNM football tailgate, but a lot of social media would be nice, too.

The Crew will keep tabs on the progress of The 377’s own beers. We will offer a more formal, in-depth preview in advance of the TBD grand opening.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister