Archive for the ‘Taproom Preview’ Category

La Cumbre’s new taproom is ready to go!

Franz Solo here on the cusp of your weekend to announce the opening of La Cumbre’s taproom this coming Monday, the 20th of August. Located on Albuquerque’s west side at the new shopping center on the southeast corner of Coors and Montaño, this is quite a lovely addition to those of us who live in the Taylor Ranch neighborhood and surrounding areas.

The exterior is complete.

To say that I’m just a little excited for this is entirely an understatement. Since moving into Taylor Ranch in 2012, one of the few things that was missing from our neck of the woods was a stellar taproom, and we always hoped one would land right around Coors and Montaño. Our hopes have been answered, and man, I’m happy to have La Cumbre here. I had a few moments to chat with owner Jeff Erway and snap a few photos of the nearly completed space, so without further ado …

It’s mighty cozy inside.

Franz Solo: All right, so we finally got a taproom. So what does this mean for La Cumbre and how excited are you?

Jeff: You know, I wasn’t excited when we got started, but I’m pretty darn excited now, because it’s that feeling of accomplishment. Except this time, it wasn’t the vast majority of it just being my wife (Laura) and myself getting it all done. It has been a total team effort and the place looks really good because of that. Everybody came up with plenty of stupid ideas and amongst those stupid ideas a few really good ones rose to the top, and we took those and ran with them.

Owner Jeff Erway is one happy man with that beer menu in place.

Yeah, I’m really proud of the way it looks and how it came out. The general contractor did a great job and as much as anything I’m really excited to see — we know our clientele at our original taproom, it’s hardcore beer geeks — obviously we know that many of them will be coming here as well, but we also know that there will be a totally different group of people coming here as well, which I’m excited to see who that is.

Solo: Heck of a nice patio with the hop-themed metalwork.

Jeff: Thank you very much. We are really pleased with how it came out.

The hop design is quite fun outside.

Solo: I also like that this is quite modern, but you kind of kept the rustic look of the original alongside it.

Jeff: I did. I tried as much as I could. We used lots of recycled wood. We’ve got an arcade game over there with 1,100 different games or something, every single awesome game you played in the 80’s and 90’s we’ve got there. We have a shuffleboard table because it’s something I’ve always loved when I was up in Taos, playing late night shuffleboard. We found a woodworker at Real Woodworks, John, that we really wanted to partner with and I think he just did a killer job creating exactly what we were trying to go for.

Classic arcade games? Oh, the hours we will spend playing these!

Gonna be playing a lot of this as well.

* * * * *

So starting next week, we on the Westside have our own taproom at which to “Get Elevated” and I for one could not be more excited. From the start, there will be 18 distinct beers on tap and also of note, this is the first taproom I’ve seen that has incorporated outlets with USB ports at every booth, along the wall, and under the bar as well to suit our modern device needs for constant power, which is a very nice touch. Head over this coming week and check out the long awaited La Cumbre taproom in all its glory. 

Soon, all those tables and booths will be packed!


— Franz Solo

Ponderosa’s taproom at the revamped El Vado Motel is now open.

Greetings fair readers, Franz Solo here, the other day upon learning that the El Vado taproom for Ponderosa Brewing had opened for business, I was tasked by Stoutmeister with checking it out. As it happens, the historic El Vado Motel, which first opened in 1937 and will reopen after some pretty awesome looking renovations this July, is just two minutes of a bike ride from my usual stopping point on the river by Tingley Beach.

The El Vado Motel sits just over the river on the south side of Central at New York (2500 Central Ave. is the precise address). So after a lovely late morning ride by the Rio Grande in the wonderful June heat (yes, I am a bit crazy to enjoy biking in the afternoons of June through August), I stopped in the just-opened taproom to have a look.

There are 10 Ponderosa beers on tap.

The space is wonderfully rustic, with all of the charm you’d expect for an 80-plus-year-old building, matched flawlessly with modern lighting, fixtures, and so forth. The El Vado taproom has 10 Ponderosa beers on tap at present, and is open daily from noon to close (around 8 p.m., but that is subject to change).

The patio off of the taproom itself is spacious and quite a lovely spot in which to have a pint and a bite to eat, especially once more food options arrive in the other available “pods” on site. When I rode up, several people were enjoying tacos from one of these such establishments which looked quite tempting indeed.

The patio area includes this awesome fountain.

At the back is the motel proper, which from the exterior looked like quite a nice place for both tourists and staycationers alike. The proximity to Tingley Beach, Rio Grande, and the ABQ Biopark makes this quite a nice addition to the area which, is already a lovely part of town in which to spend the day.

(You can also stop by to check out Metal the Store, an awesome clothing and merch space created by Brew Crew friend Michael Wieclaw, which is already open in the El Vado complex. — S)

Another shot of the cozy interior.

So head down and check it out for a pint or two, whether you bike (just head east on Central off the main Bosque bike trail for a couple of blocks) or perambulate down the freshly paved and finally completed Central. 

Until our next adventure, I bid you adieu!


— Franz Solo

The beer will flow inside this building starting Saturday afternoon! (Photo courtesy of Tractor Brewing)

Tractor Brewing will open the doors of its new Westside Taproom this Saturday at noon, the culmination of a two-year effort to bring the Beer Farm west of the Rio Grande. Located at 5720 McMahon Blvd., just east of Unser on the south side of the street, between Starbucks and McDonald’s, the taproom will seat around 70 inside and 50 outside on the patio.

During the final days of the buildout, I stopped by to visit co-owner Skye Devore as she was busy putting the finishing touches on the bar top. The very fact she was on the verge of opening a taproom out west showed how far that part of town has come.

“David (Hargis) and I both used to live out here,” Skye said of herself and her co-owner/brewmaster. “We both moved east because we’re like there’s nothing to do out here. It really stuck out in my mind, when we lived out this way, when the Whiskey over at Montano and Coors closed. It was a nice place to go get a drink, but the west side just couldn’t sustain it. At that time we thought there was no real market out there.”

Population growth, however, changed the opinions of the Tractor owners.

“But, I think that what’s been happening is that people are tired of (battling) traffic and they’re looking for stuff closer (to home),” Skye said. “So about two years ago, David said let’s go to the west side. I was very not sure of that decision. I was like OK, let’s give it a shot.”

As other breweries have found out, however, just wanting to go west does not equal being able to do that. There are not a lot of buildings that were taproom-ready.

“Instead of looking for (existing) spaces, we found this one, which was just a dirt lot,” Skye said. “We figured it was a good place, it was underserved, and I had just had my twins out this way, so (I knew) there was stuff out there, there were people.”


The future home of Restoration Pizza by Bosque Brewing, across the parking lot from Cabela’s.

While doing a weekly perusal of pending small brewer licenses, the Crew stumbled upon a new one that threw us off for a minute. Restoration Pizza by Bosque Brewing was a new addition, but also one we had heard nothing about. After contacting the Bosque staff, they were also a bit surprised.

That was due to a switch in the licensing with the State of New Mexico.

“I got a phone call on Thursday saying they received it, but they couldn’t accept it,” managing director Gabe Jensen said. “Then you email me on Sunday. How in the world did that happen?”

Well, the State is slow to change things on its website, but the point is that this new project is still happening, with only a change to where it will be one of the three potential new taprooms to come out of the Bosque North production facility in Bernalillo. No matter the license, the point of Restoration Pizza is to offer up something new, but with a distinct Bosque flavor.

“The long and short of it, it’s a simple pizza, salad, and beer joint, that’s it,” Gabe said. “(But) the concept is different than what we’ve always done.”

The difference will be in the employees. Restoration Pizza will have 50 to 70 percent of its staff made up of people with physical and mental disabilities. The restaurant will be located at the Legacy at Journal Center complex off Jefferson that is anchored by Cabela’s. The 3,400-square foot space will be inside the building on the east side of the property.

Gabe said the idea was born out of a series of conversations with one of his friends, Nathan Winham.

“He had a program in Arkansas where he did work programs for individuals with (cerebral palsy), Down’s Syndrome, autism, and we were talking about him starting up another one here in New Mexico,” Gabe said. “He was lamenting on how hard it is; you have to get grants (and) it’s going to take a long time. After a few conversations with him, and then conversations with Jess and Jotham and John, we were like can we just do this without all the red tape. Can we make a program, a concept that works with that?”

Along with Bosque director of culture and engagement Jess Griego, director of operations Jotham Michnovicz, and brewmaster John Bullard, Gabe and David came up with a plan.

“When we announced it internally, I think the mantra was making things better,” Jotham said. “That’s one of the things we really want to do in New Mexico and lives in general is just make things better. We’re trying to create a cooperative environment that allows people competitive and fair wages, when that would not necessarily be an opportunity under other circumstances. The dignity of human life is a big deal to us. That’s one of the things we’re striving for in all capacities, whether it’s a co-worker or a customer.”

Jess added that it fits the Bosque model of engaging with the community.

“We really want to create a environment that’s going to enhance the lives of our co-workers, all these new co-workers as well, (and) create a community around this Restoration Pizza that kind of engages the community more and makes an impact,” she said. “We’re always looking for those opportunities internally. And then, to have this new branch of our company that’s going to hopefully provide that even more for a wider range of people with different abilities is really exciting to us. It’s a lot of gray areas and unknowns that we need to sort out still, but I think overall usually our mission is to make things better, to engage our community, to outdo ourselves. This opportunity, I think, is going to be a shining example.”

The plan is to have Restoration Pizza open before the end of 2018. Bosque will also be working with Adelante Development Center, a local non-profit that works with differently abled persons.

It will only be the latest in a seemingly never-ending series of projects for the Bosque staff, who continue to push the company forward. The Bernalillo facility is nearly finished, though no exact opening date has been set, while ground should be broken soon on the Open Space project along the Interstate 25 frontage road, which will replace the current San Mateo brewery and taproom. After all that is completed? Oh, we expect Bosque is far from done.


— Stoutmeister

Suite C1 in the new retail complex on the 5600 block of Coors will be home to La Cumbre’s first off-site taproom later in 2018.

After years and years of rumors, it is official — La Cumbre Brewing is opening its first off-site taproom. Rejoice, West Side residents, for it will be on your side of the Rio Grande.

I sat down with owner Jeff Erway, marketing director Cory Campbell, and taproom manager Jenn B to confirm the pending off-site small brewer license now listed on the New Mexico State Regulation and Licensing Department website. It is indeed true that La Cumbre will open its first taproom in the new development built around the Sprouts Market on the southeast corner of Montano and Coors.

“First off, the landlord and the anchor tenant kind of approached us and actually wanted us there,” Jeff said. “The location obviously really worked for me, from a traffic-flow business standpoint. There’s just a ton of traffic there. We feel like it’s a fairly underserved market. There are some good craft beer spots in the area, but no truly great taprooms in that area.”

Jeff had spoken in the past numerous times about how many factors had to be in place for him to even consider opening a taproom.

“We looked around at a lot of places and there was always one reason or another that the place didn’t work for us,” he said. “This one, there were a couple negatives to it, but they were few and far between. In all the time I’ve been looking, and I’ve been looking for a long time, there has not been a spot that came even kind of close to this, even places that I signed letters of intent on, there hasn’t been another spot … this is perfect. There’s all these apartments right behind it. There’s double that number of apartments going up in the next couple years. You’ve got by far and away the most amount of growth in the population of Albuquerque is over there.”

From an aesthetic standpoint, it will also be hard to beat the surrounding area.

“It’s a beautiful spot right by the Bosque with the river, the bike trails,” Cory said.

The anchor tenant helps, too.

“Obviously, Sprouts, there’s going to be a lot of cross consumers,” Jeff said. “Now we’ve got to work on getting the best partner restaurants we can to go in there.”

Getting the beer across town will not be a problem for La Cumbre, which has been distributing for seven years now. There could be other unique challenges that present themselves in the future, though.

“We’re not worried about that,” Jeff said. “Unique challenges, we’ve never really tried to run a business in a completely different location. We’ve basically had kind of three different businesses in one, but all in the same location — a brewery, a distributorship, and a taproom.”

La Cumbre customers will not have to worry that the new taproom will take anything away from the original. In fact, it will likely only enhance the beer portfolio, which is the reason so many people pack the old joint on Girard every week.

“I feel like one of the things that I’m most excited about is being able to produce a good-sized volume of each one of these specials that we produce all the time and actually be able to move it all much more expediently,” Jeff said. “That means when you brew a 30-barrel batch of that kick-ass IPA, it’s not going to be on tap for a month, it will be on tap for half that amount of time, if that.

“This space is going to be a bit bigger than the current taproom space. I don’t see much reason why it’s not going to be as busy if not busier than this taproom. For me, the ability to hopefully have more beers on tap while also moving through them quicker is going to be, from my standpoint, a beer quality standpoint, I’m extremely excited about that.”

Or, as Cory summed it up, “From a beer geek standpoint, too, it’s lots of cool styles on, fun stuff.”

Being able to keep seasonals and specialties on tap in greater quantity, while making sure to keep them fresh at all times, is the biggest trend in craft beer.

“It’s part of the new world order in our industry right now,” Jeff said. “People want to come into your place and see completely new set of rotators every time they come there. This will help with that.”

The look of the new taproom will be both similar to and different from the current brewery. The original taproom has a rustic feeling, from the reclaimed wood to the light fixtures made out of old license plates and the rows of growlers on the support beams. Some of that was intentional, Jeff said, but some was merely out of necessity.

“My wife was very pregnant-slash-brand-new-mother when we were building this taproom,” he said. “I literally had a budget of maybe $25,000 to get it done, everything. That meant that there were a lot of things that had to be compromised. There just wasn’t money to do it. Slowly over the last seven years, we’ve made improvements here, but there’s no getting around the fact that this place was hob-cobbled together. The thing that gives it its feel in a lot of ways is that it’s unabashedly all about the beer but it’s also very rustic. We’re going to do our best to keep a somewhat similar feel to that in the new taproom space, but we’re also going to make it a lot … I don’t know the word, spiffy?”

“Maybe updated?” Cory added. “Maybe that’s not the right word, either.”

“Polished?” Jenn asked.

“Polished, maybe that’s the right word,” Cory replied. “We’re still going to have lots of warm woods like we have here. We’re going to make it a comfortable place.”

“There’s still going to be a lot of reclaimed wood, basically,” Jeff interjected with a laugh. “By the end of my career I’m going to be the biggest purchaser of reclaimed wood, that’s my goal!”

Jenn said she is confident that even with the need to likely double her front-of-house team in size, that they will be able to get things done with little fuss.

“We’re really unsure of what exactly we’re going to need as far as that’s concerned,” she said. “OK, we start off with this (number). I imagine we’re going to need at least the same amount of staff over there. As far as me going back and forth, initially I anticipate I’ll be over there a lot. We’ll see how it goes.”

As for the ultimate question, when will the taproom open, the La Cumbre team is smart enough to know better than to answer that. The City of Albuquerque has never, and likely will never, move quickly through the inspection and permitting process.

“That’s the million dollar question,” Cory said. “Honestly, we don’t know. At this point, the lease has been signed (but) we don’t have the building yet.”

Jeff said the furniture for the building has already been ordered. All the La Cumbre staff can do is make sure everything is ready to go on their end. Much of what has to happen is out of their hands.

“We’re actively purchasing and getting bids for things,” he said. “We’ve hired an architect. To try to predict when we’re gonna open would be to try predict when another company is going to be able to get another company to deliver their certificate of occupancy to them so that they can deliver our initial to us so that we can get another company to get the permits and then complete their portion of the buildout so that we can go in and put in the finishing touches so we can get our certificate of occupancy. It will be open in 2018! I am very confident it will be open in 2018.”

All of us in the Crew, especially Franz Solo (he lives up the hill), are looking forward to being among the first to visit the La Cumbre taproom when it opens later this year. We are pretty sure a lot of you on the West Side are excited as well. As further updates come in, we will share them with all of you.

A huge thank you to Jeff, Cory, and Jenn for giving us the opportunity to break this news.


— Stoutmeister

Everything is ready to take flight at the new Red Door taproom at Wyoming and Comanche.

The staff at Red Door Brewing expected to have their second offsite taproom open by now. As usual, though, the red tape piled up and slowed the process to a crawl. Now, however, there is light at the end of the tunnel after the taproom received its license from the State of New Mexico.

“This was definitely one thing after another,” said co-owner/head brewer Wayne Martinez. “It ended up being pushed back further than we’d like it to (have been). It’s just (finishing the) small things now.”

With luck, those small things will be done by the end of this week, and the taproom will be open by this weekend. Located on the southwest corner of Wyoming and Comanche, it will bring Red Door beers to a new audience while also appeasing long-time fans who live closer to there than the original or downtown taprooms.

“I’ve heard several people say they could walk home from here,” Wayne said.

Wayne provided a quick tour of the space on Monday evening.

“It will fit about 90 people,” he said. “The (taps) tower should be here, hopefully at the end of the week, but we’ll see. And then we still have to have (the final) inspection.”

All that is missing is the taps tower.

As soon as the taps are ready, there will be 14 total, two more than downtown. Wayne said that will enable the brewery keep more seasonal and specialty offerings on tap, so look for an even greater variety of beer in the future.

The taproom occupies the southern end of the building, which also houses the Poki Poki Cevicheria restaurant. Wayne said patrons can bring food from Poki Poki (or any outside eatery) into the taproom, as there is not enough space for a food truck to park outside.

The space inside will feature a bar and tables on the ground level. There is a small area on the west side of the building where a familiar feature will be set.

“This will be the retro gaming area,” Wayne said. “We’ll have a couch, we’ll have a TV with probably a (Nintendo) 64 again.”

The loft area upstairs will be a popular feature.

There is also a loft area above the west side.

“If we have any kind of groups that want to a have a (private) party, we’ll be able to accommodate that,” Wayne said.

Another interesting motif is a number of red doors hanging above the main bar area. Sound padding is on top of each one to help with the echo effect of the high ceiling.

The large garage doors on the south side will open up in good weather. While not a true patio, it will at least take advantage of sunny and pleasant days.

With luck, the last piece of equipment will arrive this week, the final inspection will go smoothly, and Red Door Wyoming will open its doors by Saturday. Stay tuned for further updates.


— Stoutmeister

The sign is up and things are ready to go for Broken Trail’s Uptown taproom.

UPDATE: You can all continue reading the story below, but we have now received official word that Broken Trail has received its state license and will be opening soon! Still, though, read on for details about the space and the battle they went through to get open.

* * * * *

The mini-mystery of who was opening a taproom in the old Urban Mattress space on Menaul east of Louisiana, next to Fork & Fig and Filling Philly’s, was solved a while back. Now the only mystery is when the City of Albuquerque will allow Broken Trail to actually open its doors.

I met up with Broken Trail owner/distiller/brewer/handyman Matt Simonds last Friday, which was supposed to be the last day before he held a soft opening at the location at 6902 Menaul Blvd. NE.

“We had our hearing (this) September and at this point we’ve opened up a couple of these (taprooms),” Matt said. “I feel like I know things pretty well. We had all our stuff together to the point where I’m laughing with the hearing officer walking out the door.

“An hour later I get a call and they’re like, ‘Uh, Mr. Simonds, we’re really sorry but we didn’t give you the complete neighborhood list of all the neighborhood associations. So we have to deny your license, or deny approval.’ I’m like, ‘You guys gave me a list. You gave me the wrong list. I was compliant.’ ”

As soon as allowed, this is the sign that will face out toward Menaul letting people know the taproom is open.

Oh, City of Albuquerque, you never fail to amaze. Being the good guy that he is, Matt was able to work out an agreement. Well, or so he thought.

“After much infighting and much discussion, we finally came to the conclusion that they would give me temporary approval under the assumption that I would come back in a month and take care of it,” he said. “I’m like, all right, that’s reasonable. It’s a pain in my butt, but at least it’s a solution. Send my approval to the State and it doesn’t hold me up.

“I’m talking to the State (last) week and we’re ready for our license. What’s our holdup? They said they don’t have anything from the City yet. I’m sorry what? So, I’m sitting there talking with them, they’re like oh, I’m sorry, I thought we were supposed to wait until your October hearing. Our bad! I’m like, that’s awesome, thanks guys, because when we’re not compliant the hammer is dropped down. When they are it’s we’re sorry, our bad.”

It was particularly unfortunate that Broken Trail could not open last weekend since the Sheraton hotel across the street was packed with Balloon Fiesta attendees.

“I know it doesn’t look like it, but we’re really just a good cleaning job away from being open,” Matt said. “Our plan was to have people in here, not necessarily announced, but open our doors (Saturday) and maybe start paying some of my bills.”

The taproom will be ready with a quick clean-up job, now it’s just up to the City.

The new taproom certainly looks like it will be an inviting space whenever the City allows it to open. It shares an outdoor space with the two eateries, and folks will be able to bring food across the walkway and enjoy it at Broken Trail. That alone was a huge selling point for Matt when he chose the location.

“I have no desire to operate a kitchen,” Matt said. “I’m up to my neck in beer and spirits as it is. We felt like to have some sort of growth we had to do something like this, and here we are.”

Of course, with every other place in town seemingly opening up a new off-site taproom, it behooves the question of why now for Broken Trail.

“Uh, stupidity? Delusion? Insanity?,” Matt joked when asked that question. “You know, it was a number of reasons. Obviously, Green Jeans is kind of our big off-site taproom at the moment, but we only do liquor over there, and it’s only about yay big. And so, we wanted a place that had some room for growth, a place that we could do the beer and liquor together.

“I can’t tell you the number of times that people at Santa Fe Brewing say, ‘Hey, can we bring our Pepe the Mule over?’ Or, ‘Hey, can we take the Happy Camper over?’ ‘No, sorry.’ Being able to do the two together, it’s huge.”

The old Urban Mattress sign, slightly modified, remains up as a sort of inside joke.

Choosing a location close to a hotel, plus the Coronado, Winrock, and Uptown shopping centers was not the original target, Matt said, but it should work out just fine.

“We really wanted to do far Northeast Heights,” he said. “We were just a week behind the eight ball and all of a sudden Tractor, Red Door and some named-yet-unnamed brewery at Eubank and Menaul (jumped in). We were really too late to hit that.

“I really don’t want to cross the river, yet. We really thought this (area) was an underserved market. You’ve got Alien (Brew Pub) that’s relatively close. There’s some overlap there, but not really.”

Once the realtor showed Matt the current space, he fell in love.

“The location we thought was fantastic,” he said. “Visibility was great, access was great. It has parking, which I guess is rare apparently in the brewing industry. Just a bit, right? The irony is the centrality of this location actually lends itself to the Uber crowd and (yet) we have parking.

“I think a lot of the stars aligned on the location and the timing. For us to maybe stretch our legs a little bit as a brewery … we’re going to have a handful of guest taps, (but) we’re getting our stuff out in the world alongside the spirits.”

Pardon the interruption, Mr. Contractor, but we wanted a shot of the exterior patio. That bay door will be replaced so guests can order from the bar without going inside.

The taproom will have plenty of seating inside and a small patio on the east side of the building facing the two restaurants. It will seat just under 100 people, Matt said. The bar is more to the south end of the interior, featuring plenty of unique little touches.

Matt designed a bar top with all the elements of a bike trail through a miniature dirt-and-rock course and other neat little objects covered by a thick coating of resin, similar to the table tops at Anodyne downtown.

“I feel like every brewery (or taproom) that opens up is if it’s put through the craft brewery catalogue — let’s have a chalkboard beer menu, let’s have rustic lighting,” Matt said. “We wanted to have something that really stood apart. The bar top was the first thing and that’s just I can’t think of anything that’s a better reflection of our identity and who we are.”

It’s log, log, it’s better than bad it’s good!

Customers may not notice the bar top until they are standing next to it, but they will for certain notice the unique taps behind the bar. That is because all of them are encased inside an actual log. As in from a real tree.

“Then the taps, this is really cool, the guy that owns Albuquerque Hardwood Lumber is a friend of mine,” Matt said. “I exchanged him some bourbon for this log and they quartered it off for me and I hollowed it out and put the taps in there. I thought it was so cool and so unique and it actually works.”

As Matt noted before, Broken Trail will have some guest taps, including a Copper Ale from Little Toad Creek down in Silver City. That will mark the first time LTC has a tap in Albuquerque, and it is a partnership that should continue into the future, Matt said. Tractor will have its Delicious Red Apple Cider on tap, plus others will be announced whenever Broken Trail is allowed to open its doors.

The Crew will keep on top of things as far as the opening goes. Keep monitoring the main Broken Trail Facebook page as well for any announcements. Until then, we all wish Matt the best of luck when it comes to being patient with the small-business-hating bureaucracy of the City of Albuquerque.

— Stoutmeister

The Crew took flight, well, multiple flights at Desert Valley Brewing’s new west side taproom.

The Crew was invited, en masse, to visit the new Desert Valley Brewing taproom on the west side Thursday night. We were able to put together a sizable collection of members — myself, Franz Solo, Luke, Andrew, Shawna — at the last minute to head over and try the food and beer.

Desert Valley has been open less than two weeks. It will host an official grand opening this Saturday, with merchandise giveaways every half hour, half-price appetizers, live music, and more. For those wondering where it is located, if you remember where the old Stumbling Steer (later Vernon’s Open Door) sat off Ellison near Highway 528/Alameda, then you should be able to find Desert Valley. It occupies the southwest corner of the building at 3700 Ellison NW.

The interior is warm and inviting. There are multiple televisions, making it an ideal spot for watching sports. They were divided between the dreadful Thursday NFL game (Bengals-Texans, a match-up that should be outlawed) and the poor Lobos getting overwhelmed on the Smurf Turf at Boise State. The spacious patio got hit by some rain while we were there, but the children outside with their families seemed to enjoy that. The parents, well, they grabbed their beers and moved to the covered half, trying in vain to beckon the kids to come along.

Oh, if only the football games were worth watching when we went.

The enclosed area features a long bar, with a series of tall tables for up to six patrons. Short tables line the back area toward the far (east) wall, with the kitchen in the southeast corner. There was plenty of space and it was easy for patrons and staff to move about.

There were 10 Desert Valley beers on tap — Lager, Cerveza, Blonde, Hefeweizen, Double Wheat, 244 Red, El Dorado IPA, Honey IPA, Strawberry IPA, Stout. The DV brewhouse is actually located in a building near Menaul and the Interstate 25 frontage road, near The Craftroom, the beer/cider taproom owned by Sandia Hard Cider, the sister operation of DV. This west side taproom is designed to focus on the beer, but just in case, there are still some Sandia ciders on tap. We stuck with the beer, of course.

The appetizer game at Desert Valley is strong.

We were treated to an order of nachos first. If you have seen the video on Facebook, they bring the chips out, along with a skillet of meat, cheese, beans, and sauce, which your server then pours over the chips. Dinner and a show! We also ordered additional appetizers including Buffalo chicken wings (bone-in), teriyaki chicken wings (boneless), Twisted Tots (deep-fried tater tots), and Pork with no Fork (bone-in pieces of fried pork with cooked cinnamon apple slices). The entree items varied by Crew member.

I could ramble on, but I wanted to let a couple of the others share their overall thoughts.

Cut back on the pepper and this meatloaf could be excellent.

Franz Solo: I arrived after the rest of the Dark Side Crew had assembled, and ordered a flight consisting of the double wheat, honey IPA, El Dorado IPA, and the stout. These show promise, definitely having some of the best and most sought after hops in the recipe for both IPAs, and I look forward to trying them again once the brewers have their recipes dialed in on their brewhouse. The double wheat was distinct and sweet, and delightfully quaffable for a higher ABV offering. The stout was sweet with a lingering raisin and chocolate flavor that permeated the beer almost entirely. We then noshed on some excellent nachos, as well as wings, tater tots (most excellent) and a pork appetizer with some lovely cinnamon drenched cooked apple slices. For my second flight I tried the hefeweizen, the mexican lager, the standard lager, and the strawberry IPA. I definitely liked the hefeweizen, which was certainly higher on the ABV spectrum than most giving it a strong sweetness with banana notes. The lagers both had good bases in terms of malts and hops, though I would like to see them lagered a tad longer, perhaps (just my assumption), to really bring out the best in both offerings. The strawberry IPA for me was the best of the hoppy beers, having a metric ton of strong strawberry sweetness paired with a strong and bitter IPA. Our main dishes were good, but (and this is coming from someone who absolutely adores pepper) a tad over spiced with black pepper. Presentation was quite nice and overall this was a promising start for the joint. Definitely liked the atmosphere with the patio, the clear garage doors going outside and the large TVs for football, so would definitely like to catch a game or two here in the fall. As with all new openings I encourage a bit of patience as any stumbling blocks are worked out, but this showed me a good deal of promise for what could be a staple on the west side. 

There are plenty of food choices.

Luke: As far as my experience goes, I had only been to The Craftroom, where Desert Valley made their beer debut. I had tasted a few of their concoctions and thought they were decent, lacking only in the comfortable experience you get from brewing on your own system for a few dozen batches. Tonight, we tasted our way through a few flights between us. I enjoyed a more dedicated-feeling core lineup, having tasted all the way from their lager to their stout, and most beers in between. Their Double Wheat will make Albuquerque’s many Marble fans quite happy, and their Lager was as good as an Albuquerque craft lager can be, that is, since Chama’s dear departure. Their 244 Red was a full bread basket, and not in a bad way, and their Stout was thick and chocolatey, better, as predicted by myself, in the form of a full pour. My favorite of the two IPAs I tasted was the strawberry, oddly enough, the fruit of which I likened to the point those Ballast Point fellows have been making. As far as the food goes, the entrees (green chile meatloaf and meatball sub) were peppered full of season, almost too much so, but it was the appetizers that shined in a collective Dark Side opinion. The buffalo sauce in the wings was excellent, exactly what I’ve been looking for in a gameday snack, and oh man, those tater-fritter things. Order them and thank us later. I’m sure the rest of the guys have more to add, but I’m already looking forward to a proper revisit of Desert Valley’s vendings.

* * * * *

As for me, I found the beers to be mostly average or slightly below. The Lager was my pint choice, as it was just a solid, clean beer. The Stout had the flavor, but lacked body. There was still enough promise in the beers that as the brewers get customer feedback and more experience on their system, they should be able to adjust accordingly.

Best food name? Balls O’ Meat Submarine.

On the food side, I tried the Balls O’ Meat Submarine (winner on the name front). Much like the meatloaf for Franz Solo, it was a bit peppery. The fries were quite good. I preferred the bone-in over the boneless wings. The teriyaki sauce was good on the wings, but the buffalo sauce was better (also, always go bone-in). The Twisted Tots and the Pork with no Fork were quite good, too.

Our server was attentive, friendly, and helpful. Unfortunately for her, the kitchen was moving slow. Like really, really slow. It took a while before our food arrived and some of the dishes were lukewarm. This is something that should be fairly easily corrected, with either more staff in the kitchen or a better way to communicate with the front of house that the food is ready. I have a feeling it will be all-hands-on-deck as far as staff goes Saturday, so hopefully everything will run smoothly for the big grand opening crowd.

The stout made for a nice dessert beer.

Overall, the positive vibe and atmosphere, plus enough promise in the food and beer, will have us coming back in a few months to check on the progress. With a little luck and hard work, Desert Valley should be able to find its niche on the west side.

A big thanks to Chris Senutovitch for the invite and taking care of the food portion of our bill. We were glad to make it on short notice and we will be back.


— Stoutmeister

Tractor open for business in Four Hills

Posted: August 11, 2017 by cjax33 in Taproom Preview

There is no sign yet, but trust us, that is the new Tractor Four Hills taproom on the left.

For those who do not follow us on Facebook, you missed the photos taken during the members-only soft opening of Tractor Brewing’s new taproom in Four Hills. Well, now you can go take your own photos since it is fully open for business.

The beer is flowing!

The grand opening celebration will be on Saturday, August 19, but for now head on up and enjoy a beer and a sandwich (yes, there is food!), perhaps before or after you check out a movie at Icon Cinemas. Along with the Canteen Taproom just north of Interstate 40 along Tramway, an area of town long without craft beer now has two excellent options.

It is just different enough from the other two Tractor locations, but still has a lot of the same vibe.

While the food menu was a surprise, the taproom had the same cozy feeling at Tractor’s other locations. There is a vibe of sit back and chill out with a pint. The works of local artists cover the walls. There will be live music coming up, with Julian Wild performing Saturday at 5 p.m., Alex Maryol performing this coming Wednesday at 7 p.m., and Jacob Chavez (of the Silver String Band) will perform at the grand opening on the 19th at 5 p.m., followed by DJ Bae from 7 to 10 p.m.

Yes, the patio is pet friendly.

As for that surprise food menu, it is all made on site in a small kitchen area behind the bar. The Milk Mustachio Stout Beer Cheese will be calling our name in the future. The four sandwiches are Vegetarian, Italian Melt, Cubano, and New Mexican. There is also a charcuterie board if you would rather nibble than nosh.

The sunset views from the patio are, well, as spectacular as you would expect.

The small, but cozy, patio out front is a nice touch as well. As the photo shows, there is no sign above it (yet), but the patio makes it fairly easy to spot. The exact address is 13170-C Central Ave., but to help everyone out, it sits in a building in the northeast corner of the Four Hills Village shopping center close to the intersection of Central and Tramway. The rest of the L-shaped complex includes the aforementioned Icon Cinemas, plus a Sprouts market, and more.

Cheers to the new space, Tractor! (Big shock what someone ordered there, isn’t it?)

Whether you live up in that part of town or just want to check out something new, head on up to Tractor Four Hills whenever you get the chance. Congrats to Skye Devore, David Hargis, and the rest of the Tractor staff on getting it open and looking mighty swanky!


— Stoutmeister

The lovely interior of the Grant Brewing Taproom in Carnuel.

There are days where we just get an “itch” to make a run over to the east side of the mountains, especially in the summer when our Jeep has its doors off and the bikini top on. Now, there’s a great place to stop for a tasty beverage on the way through the canyon. The Grant Brewery Co. Taproom just opened on June 28. It is located on the east end of Carnuel, on the south side of Route 66, just before Tijeras.

The actual brewery opened in September 2015 and is in Chama. This is an offsite taproom for the brewery. However, because of the time and expense involved in remodeling the 100-year-old building in Chama, owner/brewer Robbie Gonzales said he has not actually started brewing on his own yet. Robbie was an air traffic controller here in Albuquerque for 31 years before he retired to start The Brew House in Chama. We’re guessing he’s pretty good at handling stress. And, he told us if he serves someone the wrong beer or he runs out of his extremely popular cider or something, hey, at least no lives are on the line.

The lemon cider, on the left, is rather popular with customers.

He has his equipment now and hopes to start brewing soon, with his beers becoming available this fall. Right now, he does have two collaboration beers brewed with Sierra Blanca. There is an IPA (pretty malty for those of you looking for less of a hop bomb), and a super smooth stout. His two ciders he has on now are unique — one is apple with lavender, and the other is lemon. I had the lemon because it was so refreshing on a sticky, hot day. It reminded me of a cider version of a hard lemonade. The place was pretty quiet when we walked in, but at least 20-to-25 more people came in during the hour we were there, and it seemed at least one person in each group ordered the lemon cider. Some already knew about it, and some ordered it immediately after tasting it.

They are having a hard time keeping up with the demand on that cider. Robbie said they started making cider first, because his daughter (who was working there with him when we visited) has a wheat allergy and cannot drink the beers. However, there are also plenty of guest taps to choose from.

No, really, there is a taproom here.

The place itself is unassuming from the outside. When you walk up, it is a little difficult to find the right entrance, as it is connected to an event center. For over-21 events, they are able to open up a pass through window and sell beer directly to patrons inside the other space. Inside, the taproom is gorgeous. When they get better signage and maybe dress up the front a little, it will really start to get busy on the weekends, I am sure. There is a nice little patio on the north side. Robbie said they eventually want to start getting more food trucks. They had a food truck come out recently, and it worked out well as there is plenty of space.

Take a break from the horrid heat this month and head into the mountains for some cold beer and cider. Since they are new and settling in to what the best schedule will be, you might want to check their Facebook page for updates on current hours. Perhaps you may want to make it a little ale trail with visits to the Canteen Taproom on Tramway, The Grant Brewing Co. Taproom in Carnuel, and Ale Republic in Cedar Crest (plus the new Tractor taproom when it opens). Just stay safe and keep it cool out there. Jeep not required.


— AmyO