Archive for the ‘New Brewery Preview’ Category

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

If you're gonna go all out on the sculpture garden, seriously, go ALL OUT.

If you’re gonna go all out on the sculpture garden, seriously, go ALL OUT.

The pictures have been hard to miss on social media. Metal sculptures soaring into the Albuquerque sky, all coming from the page belonging to a forthcoming brewery. It has been a rather different way to promote a new entry into the local scene, but in a way, it has worked, getting the attention of the Crew and many other folks.

Now, finally, we will all get to see if the beer is just as unique as the decor as Dialogue Brewing is aiming for a grand opening this Saturday. After my baseball-related trip to El Paso last week, I stopped in at Dialogue after surviving a surprise hailstorm on I-25 in Valencia County. (September is a weird month to find your car sliding on the road, people.) Eliot Salgado, one of the owners, and head brewer Ian Graham greeted me inside after I passed through the sculpture garden rising up at the northwest corner of 1st Street and Kinley Ave., five blocks north of Marble.

High ceilings are a brewer's friend.

High ceilings are a brewer’s friend.

“This is a warehouse that was built in the 20s,” Eliot said. “We were able to take this beautiful place and repurpose it for a whole new century and a whole new thing. The beer for us … it’s super important that the beer is on par or hopefully better than what we have (in Albuquerque). But, we wanted to create a space that matches that.”

The beer is the responsibility of Ian, who comes to Dialogue from Greenport Harbor Brewing on Long Island.

“I was the lead brewer of a 30-barrel production facility out in New York,” Ian said. “We had that, (and) we had a pilot system, basically the original brewery that was a 15-barrel brewhouse. I do all of our flagship beers and seasonals on the bigger system and then pretty much had carte blanche to do whatever I wanted on the 15-barrel. It was a good experience.”

Dialogue's new 7-barrel brewhouse.

Dialogue’s new 7-barrel brewhouse.

Ian will be working with a 7-barrel system, utilizing 7- and 14-barrel fermenters. He said they could eventually add 21-barrel fermenters, but three brews per day on the brewhouse would be the max for a batch.

“Right now we have in the tanks a Vienna lager, a Munich Helles, a Berliner Weisse, a lychee mandarin American wheat, a Belgian dark strong with cherries, and a Belgian citrus IPA,” Ian said, with the future plan to have the Vienna and the IPA as the two flagship beers, though that will be determined by what the customer ultimately demands.

Certainly, it cannot hurt to have some beers outside the usual stuff, particularly considering the location of Dialogue.

“I’m not too worried about the saturation, even down here,” Eliot said. “We’re sandwiched between Marble and Rio Bravo. Tractor is nearby, Bow & Arrow is close by. But, there’s still a big world of Blue Moon and Dos Equis drinkers that we’re all going after. That’s who I’m targeting, and I’m targeting people that want kind of a different experience with the whole thing. So many guys around have done a great job building really nice taprooms. We’re just trying to build something else. How can we marry these different worlds of art and brewing?”

There are already six beers fermenting here.

There are already six beers fermenting here.

Ian had his IPA at Greenport on tap over at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, so he had plenty of experience brewing up a popular style. Now he gets to branch out a lot more with the support of Eliot and the partners.

“One-hundred percent, they’re incredibly (supportive),” Ian said. “With the wheat, I was originally going to do a blueberry wheat, something that I’ve done before. One of the partners said, no, let’s do something different. I’d rather the needle be pushed rather than have safe beer. No one is going to accuse us for going safe for what we have.”

Ian’s willingness to think outside the box was what drew the ownership to hiring him.

“That was our big thing, too,” Eliot said. “We actually brought Ian out here in March to meet him, because we’d spoken on the phone, had some Skype interviews, but we wanted to get to know him. We took him around Albuquerque. We make great IPAs here, fantastic IPAs. Can Ian make a great IPA? Absolutely. Could we compete with everyone else in town? I don’t doubt it, but that’s one type of beer. There’s a whole giant world of beer out there, let’s do that, let’s have some fun.”

We've never seen a more unique outdoor seating arrangement than this one.

We’ve never seen a more unique outdoor seating arrangement than this one.

Part of that fun starts outside.

“We built what we feel is a world-class sculpture garden which you can see for free and enjoy what will be world-class beer here in Albuquerque,” Eliot said, noting that construction is continuing even past the opening date. “The (surround) sound is something we’re going to start working on. We’re going to have 18 speakers on the patio. We’ll be able to move sound around the patio and just do a projection night and have sound move around the patio when you’re seated out there.

“How do you push the needle forward, not only in beer, but in atmosphere and creativity? You’re garnering these new customers that are looking for more than (the usual).”

That means being a part of the brewing community as a whole, pushing that envelope and even bringing in customers from outside the state.

“It’s something that we want Albuquerque to be proud of and people that visit Albuquerque will then go home and say you’ve got to see what’s happening there,” Eliot said. “It’s different, it’s amazing.”

The drop-down draft tower was just installed last week.

The drop-down draft tower was just installed last week. There will be another on the patio.

There will be some charcuterie plates available in house, Eliot said, plus they hope to have a rotation of food trucks parked outdoors. They also hope to have live music and some art shows as well, though with a fairly cool twist.

“We want to do artist series even, where we have artists come in and show their stuff,” Eliot said. “We want to meet them two months before, have lunch and hang out, (and) Ian gets to meet them. Then what we’d like to do is brew a beer that goes with the show. Now the artist can convey their message to Ian, and Ian can take that and show what that can be (as a beer). How do we take that to the next level? Everybody is showing their art in a brewery.”

Ian said he is looking forward to going above and beyond.

“We live in an age where it’s not enough to make good beer anymore,” Ian said. “There are companies out there like La Cumbre and Bosque that are just crushing it. They’re amazing. What (else) can you do to add to people’s experience? Another thing we want to do, for brewery tours, once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Here’s a metal pot where we’re going to cook stuff! … So, what we want to do is more of a food pairing and interactive. We’re going to have tables back here and have cheese and meat pairings with our beer while we talk over stuff. People get to sit, eat, and drink while doing it.”

It will all help increase the beer knowledge of the people visiting Dialogue, knowledge that they can take other breweries as well.

That's a cool sign above the door, even though the sign says don't enter through it (for now).

That’s a cool sign above the door, even though the sign says don’t enter through it (for now).

Any new brewery that acknowledges the community as a whole, and its own responsibility to live up to the standards of the breweries that came before it, well, that is a pretty good way to start off. We look forward to trying the beer later this week and welcoming Dialogue to the scene.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

It has been a long road for Drafty Kilt, but opening day is not too far away.

It has been a long road for Drafty Kilt, but opening day is not too far away.

Plenty of breweries have stories about how difficult it was just to get their doors open. Mike Campbell might just take the unfortunate prize for top story in that regard.

The former brewer at Cazuela’s and Tractor has been trying to open Drafty Kilt Brewing since April 2015. The end of the process is finally in sight, but to say it has not been easy would be the ultimate understatement.

“We’ve had every snag you can think of,” Mike said. “The federal government was just a trip. We submitted and they tell you right on your website and on your (entry), if it hasn’t been this many days, don’t contact us yet. So, two months go by and then they tell us there’s a woman in California with the same name as my wife and with the last four (digits) of a social security number (who) likes to rob banks, prove that’s not you. And, by the way, go to the back of the line after you’re done.

“Then a couple months went by and they told us again that they just approved a brewery … well, they said we’re doing you a favor and letting you know that we’re approving an OffKilter Brewing Company in Indiana. You’re going to have to change your name. So, that’s where we went to Drafty Kilt.

“And then, time goes by, I start calling again and finally somebody calls back and says the rep that was doing your stuff died and your paperwork slipped through the cracks. Sorry about that! After that, then it went through. I was much more happy with the performance of my federal government.”

One of the three fermenters that will soon have beer inside.

One of the three fermenters that will soon have beer inside.

Now that the majority of the paperwork has gone through, Drafty Kilt is moving ever closer to opening.

“We can brew this weekend,” Mike said. “Then we’ll go back in there and start dealing with all that (taproom setup). If I can get three beers in the fermenters, we’ve got three weeks to play around get the bar set up. There’s all sorts of stupid things I still have to do. We have to get the wireless, get the TV, the cable. The list just keeps going on an on.”

This will be the fifth brewery that Mike has run, though it is a bit different from Rio Bravo (1990s version), Tractor, Cazuela’s, and one in Memphis.

“Even though I’ve put together four breweries, this is the first one that has all been my decisions, my money,” he said. “It’s been real easy to tell some of the previous people that I need this and voila, it appears.”

The brewery is located at 4814 Hardware Dr., a street just west of San Mateo. It is between McLeod and Lumber, a street that would only be familiar to anyone who has ever gone to Movies 8 to see a second-run flick for $1.

Drafty Kilt has come about thanks in large part to a generous family member.

“My mother-in-law inherited some money,” Mike said. “For tax purposes, she’s purchased a few houses and stuff to reinvest the money. She pretty much said she knows I don’t have a retirement plan and she doesn’t drink, but she has heard the accolades and knows that I can make good beer. She’s loving it, making curtains for the windows, loves the bar.”

The former La Cumbre brewhouse is ready to start making beer again.

The former La Cumbre brewhouse is ready to start making beer again.

Drafty Kilt purchased the 15-barrel brewhouse that La Cumbre started with in 2011. It fills up a good portion of the brewing area, with three fermenters and a cold room also present. Mike and his staff dug their own trench drains, converting a former office/industrial space into a functional brewery.

The front of the brewery, which faces west, will feature a no-frills taproom.

“Just kind of a soft and warm, not dark, not bright, just a safe space to drink some beer,” Mike said. “Once again, we were kind of thrown from OffKilter, because that kind of fit with my personality. Where with Drafty Kilt we actually need to have some Scottish stuff in here. I’ve got some old wooden golf clubs.”

Still, the cost of renting the building and not being able to do anything with it for almost a year did put a dent in one part of the budget.

“We’re going to have to, not scrimp, but not be as ornate we would like the bar to be, the taproom,” Mike said. “The beer we’re not going to scrimp on, but I think we’re going to need to get (creative). We bought these chairs cheap. We still need to find some bar stools. But, we’ve got to get open and get some income, because I’ve been hemorrhaging money, especially the long (delay). Just the extra time of renting this place, I’ve already renewed my city licenses for another year.”

One item that may adorn the walls would tell of the struggles of just getting open.

“We were talking the other day of making a mirror with the logo, putting ‘open 2015’ crossed out, ‘spring of 2016’ X’ed out, ‘summer of 2016’ X’ed out,” Mike said. “I like to kind of say that I just don’t see when they say there will come a time when we will look back on this and laugh. I spent $100,000 here, people.”

The kegs are just waiting to be filled.

The kegs are just waiting to be filled.

Drafty Kilt can now focus on the beer, with plans already drawn up for the first three that will go on tap.

“I’ll start with three beers and we’ll have to work our way from that,” Mike said. “I’m not sure I’m a fan of guest beers, especially when I’m first opening. It would help to have other beers, but I’d rather not.

“I’m going to make my stoned cream ale, same as over at Cazuela’s, we’ll just have to find a different name for it (than Piedra del Fuego). That’s just an easy-going, calibration beer just to let me see how the brewhouse works. And, then an IPA and a Scottish, a wee beastie.

“Scottish ales are great because you can make four of them with the same type of ingredients, just different proportions. 60 shilling, 90 shilling, 120 shilling, Scotch ale, wee heavy, peat is good. God bless the man who invented peat malt.”

Mike won a medal at the World Beer Cup in 2014 for his oatmeal stout, Beer For My Horses. Expect to see a new version of that beer in the near future as well.

Drafty Kilt will keep the focus internal to start, though eventually they could sell kegs to bars and restaurants.

“ I’m going to go off-site (eventually), but I don’t have much room for expansion,” Mike said. “But, I can certainly sell some beer. Actually, two (distributors) are willing to take me on, knowing what I’ve done in the past. I’ll have no problem. The biggest problem I could see would be getting spread too thin, going too many places and then running out.”

We wish Mike nothing but good luck from here on out. When Drafty Kilt is ready to open their doors after such a long, long wait, the Crew will be there to raise a pint in celebration.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Say hello to the next major brewery in the metro area!

Say hello to the next major brewery in the metro area!

Scan a Google map of Albuquerque and search for breweries. Take note of the areas of the metro area that are empty. One of those beer-less places is the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque in the North Valley. Come early 2017, that will change.

The Chant brothers (Greg, Bryce, Chris, and Ethan) and brewer Bob Haggerty, formerly of Ponderosa and La Cumbre, are teaming up to create Steel Bender Brewyard. I got the chance to sit down with Ethan Chant, his wife Shelby, and Bob at Boxing Bear last week to learn about their plans, which are three years in the making.

Steel Bender will be located near 2nd Street and Paseo del Norte.

“I talked with someone at work today and they said wow, there’s nothing there (brewery-wise),” Shelby said. “We’re right next to the Rail Runner station. We’re right on the Bosque Trail and Paseo. We want those cyclists to come in on the weekend, the runners, anyone in that area who wants a place to go meet up.”

The entire plan developed from a purchase of property three years ago.

“We bought this chunk of land off Paseo and 2nd, it’s in Los Ranchos,” Ethan said. “The Village of Los Ranchos had been asking us, ‘What would be something you guys would think would be a good idea to bring the village together, sort of a communal gathering place?’ My brother (Chris) said, ‘It would be awesome with a brewery.’ That was three years ago and they were all over it.”

Ethan said the communal nature of breweries was too hard to pass up for his family, that’s been developing properties in Albuquerque for several decades, and for the Village.

“So we were all over it, the Village was all over it,” he said. “It happened to be (one of) the fastest developments in the Village because one, we know what we’re doing. We know how to file all the forms correctly and that kind of stuff. (And two) it’s something they really wanted.”

The exterior of Steel Bender is coming together.

The exterior of Steel Bender is coming together. This will be the side of the building that will feature the patio. (All photos courtesy of Shelby Chant)

At one point, through friend and familial connections, the Chants began talking to the owners of Stone in Escondido about possibly having a satellite brewery of the California giant. Ultimately, though, that idea did not come close to happening. Meanwhile, the local brew scene was exploding all around town.

“Way back when, we (had already) loved Chama when Jeff (Erway) was there,” Ethan said. “Then Jeff left and we were sad. Then Justin (Hamilton) took over and we were happy. Then Marble started bottling, and we started to think that we had really good products here. We were really comparable to the Southern California IPAs. I think we can do something here.

“We decided instead of doing out(side the state), we can have the opportunity to open a new brewery that’s going to be good for the Village and good for a brewer who’s an assistant brewer, which was our original thought. It just made sense that we could do it and hire a really good brewer. Once again, it’s three years ago.”

Steel Bender will have plenty of space from floor to ceiling.

Steel Bender will have plenty of space from floor to ceiling.

The Chants began to do their research by talking to as many different local breweries as possible. From Bosque to Marble to La Cumbre to Chama River to Canteen to Boxing Bear and so on, they compiled all the information they would need to open a brewery that could live up to the standards of those places. The final step was to find the right brewer.

“It’s been a fun process,” Shelby said. “It really, really has. Coming in here and getting the final stamp of ‘you must get Bob’ from Erway. We were in here late on a Saturday night. We were the last ones in here and Jeff and Laura walked in. Oddly enough, we went to high school with Laura Erway, graduated with her brother. We sat there and we had already talked to so many people about Bob who could not say enough about (him). Jeff said, absolutely, that’s who you need.”

Bob is a certified Cicerone who started out at Oxbow Brewing in his home state of Maine before moving west. He worked at La Cumbre and then became head brewer for a short time at Ponderosa.

“Daniel (Jaramillo) was the one who introduced me to Bob,” Ethan said. “You know Bob’s resume in terms of being a Cicerone. Even beyond that, his character is great, but what everyone was saying was his palate was unbelievable.”

Instead of having a brewmaster in Portland, Oregon, overseeing his every move, Bob will have considerable freedom and some brand-new equipment to play with at Steel Bender.

“The construction is moving at a great pace,” Ethan said. “The brewery equipment is scheduled to come in November. It’s a Premier System. It’s basically what they have here (at Boxing Bear), for all practical purposes.”

Looking inside the construction area.

Looking inside the construction area.

Ethan said they project to open the second week of January, after the holiday madness has passed. Then Bob will take the reins and unleash his own creations.

“As much as people will drink,” Bob said of how much beer he plans to make in the first year. “It’s a 15-barrel system that’s coming in. We’re going to start off with three 15-barrel fermenters and a 30-barrel. I think we’re going to open big. There’s already some talk about the location (being) great. So I think it’s going to open big and from there it’s going to go strong.”

Right from the start, Steel Bender will also have a cool feature that should lead to some unique and potentially awesome beers.

“When I was drawing up plans at Chama, it was next to our old office, Zach (Guilmette) was still working there, and he said, ‘You know what would be cool? If you put in a barrel room.’ We’re building a climate-controlled barrel room,” Ethan said.

“You know how most places have windows where you look into the brewery? For us, you’ll have windows looking into the brewery as you approach the building. … Our showpiece will be the barrel room, which will make it look more elegant or rustic.”

Odds are they will have a smaller forklift inside for the barrel room and all.

Odds are they will have a smaller forklift inside for the barrel room and all.

Steel Bender will also have a full kitchen in place, though they do not intend to go the route that others have chosen in the past.

“It’s a brewery that serves food, it’s not a restaurant,” Ethan said. “Sometimes with a restaurant menu you start to go a little crazy and then suddenly you’ve got a phone book for a menu. I’ve been really, really trying to make sure what we serve, it’s going be small. We’ll have salads and burgers and brats and appetizers.

“We don’t want to settle for the food. We don’t want to settle for the beer. Albuquerque’s bar is high.”

One of the items they hope to offer will be a cheese plate that will be designed to specifically pair up with the house beers. Ethan said they want to make it more than just a typical brewery/eatery experience, but rather a place where people can learn more about the beer they are drinking.

“We want to make it a playground for the palate,” Bob said.

There will also be a sizeable outdoor patio with some features that were unique until recently.

“What I’m really excited about, the patio is going to be huge,” Ethan said. “We’re actually going to have a bar on the patio.”

“Well, at the time it was novel, but thanks, Marble,” Bob added with a laugh. “I actually went to their (Northeast Heights) taproom, they did a heck of a job.”

There will be a feature, inside and out, that was inspired by places Ethan’s friend has visited in Austin, Texas.

“In terms of emulating Austin, we’re going to have their backyard games,” Ethan said. “We’re going to have cornhole and other stuff on the outdoor patio. Then the tables inside, we’re going to have inset board games. Once again, that’s part of that communal aspect, with people, hanging out.”

The actual Steel Bender for which the brewery is named.

The actual Steel Bender for which the brewery is named.

Steel Bender already projects to be one of the bigger breweries in the metro area, but do not expect them to shoot for the moon in their first year.

“We’re prepared to be as big as makes sense, if that makes sense,” Ethan said. “I want Bob to be happy, first of all. Also, one of the great pieces of advice that Erway gave me was don’t feel like you have to expand. You can get caught up in that. There’s a lot of fun stuff that we can do but it’s just gotta grow organically. We don’t want this to be a burden. This has been a delight so far. It’s going to be difficult, it’s going to have all the aspects of work. (But) we get to create, we get to share this with people.”

And, for anyone who thinks Albuquerque is over-saturated with breweries, the Steel Bender team does not think that is anywhere close to being true.

“We hear this all the time and I know you hear this, is there are a brewery bubble?” Ethan said. “The reality is, if there’s a market for good products, then there’s not a bubble. The rule is it has to be a good product.”

The Crew will keep tabs on the progress of Steel Bender. Then we look forward to stopping in between visits to Bosque and Boxing Bear.

Just keep the barrel room locked. We have been known to try to steal barrels of imperial stout. Allegedly.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister