Posts Tagged ‘Bathtub Row Brewing’

2019SkiestaFlyer

Spring is right around the corner (honest!), and with it comes the return of beer festival season. One of the early annual fests is Skiesta, which is held at the Pajarito Mountain ski area above Los Alamos. This year’s edition will be happening this Saturday.

In preparing for this article, I re-read last year’s post, which talked about how dry the winter had been. Well, this year we’ve experienced the complete opposite, as you all know. As I type this just a few days before the festival, yet another snowstorm/hurricane just blasted through the area. That storm should be long gone by the time Skiesta starts, but the extra snow will no doubt guarantee some fine skiing.  (The image below has more details about the skiing events, if that’s your thing.)

In addition to a costume contest, the band Escape on a Horse playing alt-country and Americana styles, and good food from the lodge’s cafe, there will be plenty of fine craft beers. Stoutmeister was able to get the beer lists from the breweries that will be in attendance:

  • Bathtub Row: Mexican Lager, Hoppenheimer IPA, Cherry Wheat, Irish Red
  • Blue Corn: Gatekeeper IPA, Round Midnight Imperial Stout, Roadrunner IPA, Messages from Nowhere ESB, Atomic Blonde
  • Rowley Farmhouse Ales: Greyscale (Merlot Barrel), Cote d’Or (Pinot Noir Barrel), Sonora Weisse
  • Second Street: 2920 IPA, Agua Fria Pils, Cranberry Stout, Black Canyon Porter, Low Winter Sun (Kettle Sour with Cherries), Rod’s Best Bitter, 2019 Imperial Stout (maybe)
  • Tumbleroot: Orange Chocolate Stout, Belgian Pale, American Light Lager, IPA

That’s a nice variety of styles, so you’re sure to find something you like. On a personal note, I visited Blue Corn last weekend and can speak highly of Gatekeeper (the winner of the 2018 NM IPA Challenge) and their Imperial Stout.

Be sure to avail yourself of the complimentary bus service that will be running to and from Sullivan Field next to Los Alamos High School every 30 minutes between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Cheers!

— Reid

2019_Skiesta

The fourth annual Stout Invitational at Bathtub Row Brewing was a smash hit.

For the first time in four years, Stoutmeister made it to the Stout Invitational up at Bathtub Row Brewing in Los Alamos this Saturday. This annual New Mexico Brewers Guild event brings stout lovers together from across the state in a unique setting atop the mountain in a perfect stout weather kind of day.

The winner of the public vote for this fun competition was El Choco by Lost Hiker Brewing from Ruidoso. It earned 24 votes, beating out Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Imperial Stout (18) and Blue Corn’s Whiteout Stout (16). The best performance by an Albuquerque brewery was Tractor’s Chocolate Milk Stout, which was fourth with 13 votes (it was my choice out of the group, FYI).

Lost Hiker brewmaster Dan Carey holds his first major beer award.

For Lost Hiker, it was the first major award for the young brewery.

“It’s just unbelievable, I’m blown away,” brewmaster Dan Carey said. “We’re so excited. There’s so much good beer in New Mexico for us to come out on top, I drank 16 different beers, and they were all fantastic. This was a great honor.”

Here are the final public voting totals:

  1. Lost Hiker El Choco 24 votes
  2. Roosevelt Bull Moose 18
  3. Blue Corn Whiteout Stout 16
  4. Tractor Chocolate Milk Stout 13
  5. Bombs Away Fat Man Stout 11
  6. Truth or Consequences Dark Skies 11
  7. Bathtub Row Imperial Stout 7
  8. Flix Brewhouse Rubus Nucifera 6
  9. Red River Midnight Meadows 5
  10. The 377 Mimosa Delight 5
  11. Blue Heron Prieto Real 2
  12. Chili Line New Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout 2
  13. Nexus Hot Chocolate Milk Stout 2
  14. Steel Bender Brickie American Stout 2
  15. Red Door Paint it Black Nitro Milk Stout 1
  16. Rio Bravo Barrel-Aged Grab ‘Em By the Putin 1

Unlike the Stout Challenge that the Brew Crew holds, the Invitational features all sorts of stouts, from imperials to coffee stouts to others with special adjuncts. The format is similar, though, with the beers numbered as a blind taste test. It lacks the competitive ferocity of the IPA Challenge, but still manages to be an entertaining event, as it shows the variety in what people want in a stout. Whiteout Stout, for instance, is a pale stout, and it truly stood out on the tray (not unlike that one year someone put a black IPA in the NMIPAC).

Blue Corn’s Whiteout Stout was the visual standout on the tray of 16 stouts.

It was pretty packed inside the ‘Tub, but the staff kept things flowing well, with the Brewers Guild volunteers running the show in an efficient manner between the three separate judging shifts (noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m.) due to the limited seating. It was also more than a bit cold outside, so unless you could find a spot along the fire pit, stays on the patio were short.

In the end, it was a good day atop the hill. Enjoy some additional photos of the event!

A huge thank you to John Gozigian and the Guild volunteers, the staff at Bathtub Row, and all the patrons. Raise those dark elixirs high in celebration of winter!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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BRB employees, left to right, Justin Sapp, general manager Doug Osborn, head brewer Brandon Venaglia, and Emily Mockler-Wood.

Bathtub Row Brewing (BRB) in Los Alamos will be entering its fourth year of operation in 2019, and the business is entering a period of relative stability. To get the lowdown on where things stand with the brewery, I sat down with general manager Doug Osborn and head brewer Brandon Venaglia.

“The Tub,” as it’s affectionately referred to by many, has now been around long enough that people can’t imagine a time when it didn’t exist. It’s become a mainstay in people’s social lives on the hill. But, it’s also only been four years, which is not a lot of time in the lifespan of a business. At this point, after establishing itself and proving its business mettle, it’s clear the place will be around for many years to come. After an unusually slow start in early 2018 (which Doug said he thinks may have been industry-wide), sales have been on a record pace, up nearly 15 percent over last year.

One of the main points I took away is that BRB is at the point where the staff and Board of Directors are trying to take care of all of its financial burdens and fine-tune its processes and facilities, while at the same time beginning to think about what the next major course of action should be. The initial funding needed to open BRB was in part funded by loans provided by 56 individuals in the community. Those loans are slowly being repaid. Like many people, Doug said he doesn’t want that debt over his head for any longer than is necessary.

“It’s a five-year loan from the time we start paying it off to the time we’re actually done with it,” Doug said. “If I have my way, (it) will be done in two and a half.”

Even with the loans being repaid, there will likely be new equipment purchases in 2019. Brandon and his crew have been working like mad to keep up with demand. The original plan was to brew 350 barrels a year, but they said they’re approaching 1,000. Their most popular beer is, of course, the Hoppenheimer IPA, and they do quadruple batches of that one to keep enough on hand.

They also will be continuing to brew plenty of lagers, including a Mexican lager, so they’re planning to invest in a lagering fermenter. Additional fermenters and a serving vessel are also on the wish list. And, in addition to equipment, the area behind the bar will likely be redone to promote better server efficiency.

“We’re probably going to redesign behind the bar to make it more efficient; we have a bit of a log jam,” Doug said. “Whoever put this bar in never had any idea that we were going to do the volume that we were going to do. It was designed more for comfort, and less for speed.”

At the time of the interview, BRB had two beers available on nitro. They said they plan to use nitro with their stouts and porters, as is common, but also with other styles, as well. They were very proud of their new gas system, which allows them to extract nitrogen from the air and customize the mixtures of the gases they use. They explained that altitude can play a large role in brewing, and at 7,200 feet, BRB is one of the highest breweries in the country. Only Red River Brewing, at 8,600 feet, is higher in New Mexico.

Staffing has been mostly consistent. At least one-third of the roughly 25 people on staff have been around since the opening. Doug and Brandon spoke glowingly about Justin, a former intern and now staff member, who they call their “Young Padawan.” Ashley, the front-of-house manager, will be stepping down to take a position at the National Laboratory, and will likely be replaced by someone in-house.  Doug credits much of his success to his wonderful staff, as well as the Board of Directors that guide the ship.

Addressing industry trends, they said that high ABV brews aren’t as popular as they once were. At one point, a year or two ago, every entry on their list was over 7 percent.

“People come in here to spend several hours,” Brandon said. “They don’t come in here to get really wasted on an 11-percent beer or triple bourbon barrel stout at 16 percent. They’re intriguing, people enjoy them, but we get groups in here that want to sit here for two or three hours of conversation. More of a pub atmosphere with their kids, their dogs, their friends.”

Brandon said he is happy to take suggestions for brews and likes to just do what’s fun, but he noted that he did cave in to a recent trend and is making a hazy IPA.

Longer term, Doug said he has big ideas about investing in renewable energy and water reclamation systems. He feels that a co-op (which BRB is) has an obligation to be more community-oriented and environmentally friendly.

“We go through a ton of water,” Doug said. “There’s the photovoltaic and then the thermal solar. You can heat water up to 500 degrees with a proper thermal solar setup up on a roof, which would save us a ton of money, time, and effort. It’s not cheap. It’s expensive. But, you know, every time I drive by the food co-op coming into town, I love seeing those solar panels. I’m like, they’re doing it right.”

This is an issue that will have to be given a great deal of thought by the Board of Directors of BRB, so don’t expect anything overnight.

Also, in terms of the big picture, Board members and staff are trying to determine what the next big steps should be. Should there be a new taproom in town or in neighboring White Rock? Should they start distributing BRB beers regionally or nationally? Doug wants to make sure things are running smoothly at the current location before anything else is considered.

Events at BRB have included many concerts, notably a few by Vanilla Pop, a very popular regional band. Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham stopped by while campaigning and shared a beer and gave a speech. The NM Brewers Guild’s Stout Invitational was held back in February, and it is turning into a reliable annual event, seeing as how there will be another held in 2019.

A charity golf event for the local charity “All Individuals First” (which provides assistance to adults with special needs) raised $10,000. BRB was given an award by Big Brothers, Big Sisters for raising so much money for that organization. Speaking of awards, they won their second Business of the Year award from the local Chamber of Commerce as well.

BRB also participated in Sierra Nevada’s national fundraiser, brewing an IPA with a recipe provided by them (and with grains and hops provided by Proximity and Yakima). All proceeds (not just profits) from the sale of the Resilience IPA will go to fire relief efforts in California. This reinforces how tight-knit and supportive the brewery community is in New Mexico and nationwide.

BRB is getting into a groove. The new patio seating and fire pit have been very popular.  The beers are excellent. 2018 broke records, and with some fine-tuning in 2019, expect things to be even better.

Cheers!

— Reid

Get festive with merch gifts from your favorite breweries, including Marble.

As we did the last four years, the Crew has put together a brewery merchandise guide for all of you just in time for your last-minute holiday shopping. Hey, it might be nice to just buy people beer, but sometimes they need more in life, like cool shirts, hoodies, growlers, and other specialty items carrying the logos of their favorite breweries. To make all of your lives easier and save you time in terms of searching the web or driving all over the place, we compiled the local breweries’ merch lists into one place. Now you can find out what is where, what is online, what it all costs, and any other additional info you might need.

The breweries are listed in alphabetical order, starting with the ABQ metro area breweries, then the breweries from outside the metro listed below that (those from both regions that sent us info, at least). We will be updating this list throughout the holiday season, so if you do not see a brewery here, once their info arrives, we will share it. Thank you to all the brewers, owners, and other key brewery staffers who helped us put this together. Whether via email or in person, it was greatly appreciated!

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Say hello to Rio Bravo’s third-anniversary beer.

Not every significant beer event for the weekend can make it into The Week Ahead in Beer. We missed two that we should have known about, plus a third one popped up Thursday morning.

Rio Bravo celebrates its third anniversary

The good folks at Rio Bravo are jamming all sorts of fun into an all-day celebration Saturday. There will be live music, a chile cook-off, a charity beer, and a special new beer release.

Rio Bravo’s third-anniversary beer is Cherry on Brett. Brewmaster Ty Levis took the Cherry Wheat and aged it in barrels for seven-to-nine months, adding two strains of brettanomyces. He then hand bottled this sweet, funky sour, so give the man some props for that hard task alone. Those will be available upon the opening of the doors at 11 a.m.

If sours are not your thing, buy a pint of 94Rocktoberfest. For every pint sold, $1 goes to the Hops for Hunger program.

The chile cook-off will be at 3 p.m. Bring two gallons worth of your favorite recipe using New Mexico chile. The cost is $10, with $5 of that going to the Storehouse. The public will judge from 3 to 5 p.m., with a celebrity judging panel joining in on the fun at 4. Email jennifer@riobravobrewing.com for more info on how to enter.

There will also be local artists and vendors on hand, plus Creamland will be there creating ice cream floats, so yes, this is an all-ages event.

As for the music and more, the lineup is as follows: House music, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Black Pearl Band, 1-3 p.m., Poetry, 3-3:30 p.m., Icon Ulibarri & Cafe Mocha, 3:30-6 p.m., DJ Flo Fader, 6-8 p.m., Soul Divine, 8-11 p.m.

ULLR Fest heralds winter’s eventual return

The mountain calls to you. Come to the beer.

The folks at Pajarito Mountain, above Los Alamos, are preparing for the start of the colder months by throwing an annual party. ULLR Fest returns Saturday, so grab your best viking gear and head up the mountain.

There will be a BeerFest from noon to 5 p.m. In addition to local boys Bathtub Row, those in attendance will include Blue Corn, Boxing Bear, Broken Trail, Red River, Santa Fe, Second Street, Taos Mesa, The 377, Tractor, and Tumbleroot. It’s a $15 cash ticket to get all the beer samples you could ever want.

In addition, there will be live music from Auto Electric, plus a downhill bicycle race, a disk golf tournament, and a viking costume contest. Shuttles will leave Sullivan Field at Los Alamos High School every 30 minutes. The cafe will be open all day to keep people fed.

We will work on getting some beer lists for you and post them here as they arrive.

  • Bathtub Row: Little Bird Blonde, Hoppenheimer IPA, Oktoberfest, Ullr Fest (8.3% ABV)
  • Blue Corn: Gatekeeper IPA, Covhefe Collab, Oktoberfest, Oatmeal Stout, Pomegranate Gose
  • Boxing Bear: Das Bear German Pilsner, Uppercut IPA, Applebear Cider, Coffee Chocolate Milk Stout, Black and Blue Tart
  • Broken Trail: TBA
  • Red River: Bad Medicine Honey DIPA, Tucker-Brau Oktoberfest Marzen, Lazy Bear Blonde, Greenie Peak Wheat (plus root beer for designated drivers)
  • Santa Fe: TBA
  • Second Street: TBA
  • Taos Mesa: TBA
  • The 377: 377 IPA, Porter, NM Lager, Ginger Beer
  • Tractor: TBA
  • Tumbleroot: TBA

Ex Novo will be at Corrales Harvest Festival

Oh, hello, beer fridge of goodness.

Though the brewery is still a long ways off from opening, the good folks at Ex Novo are bringing some beer samples to Corrales on Saturday. There are an estimated 400 samples available, so it will be first come, first serve, until the beer runs out. The Harvest Festival will be located at 4895 Corrales Road, across from the fire station. Things will kick off at noon.

Ex Novo is based in Portland, Oregon, but owner Joel Gregory is from Corrales, so he will be opening a second brewery in his hometown in 2019. Among the beers in the Instagram photo are Eliot IPA and The Most Interesting Lager in the World, plus a slew of specialty brews. Our eagle eyes spy Dark Czech Lager, Puff Puff Passion, and Fresh Hop Eliot in those crowlers.

If there are ever any events that we miss, be sure to let us know in advance. You can reach us via any of our social media pages, or at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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Escape the heat by heading up the mountain for some beer and fun this Saturday!

Greetings, beer lovers! Los Alamos is once again hosting one of its annual beer-related events this Saturday, SummerFest. As usual, the event will take place at Pajarito Mountain, the local ski area. The temperatures are finally starting to climb, so this is a good opportunity to climb a few thousand feet to where the air is crisp and cool. (Note: Hopefully it will be nice, but weather on the mountain can be quite unpredictable, so be ready for anything.)

The beautiful mountain environment makes for a great place to visit, and you can burn some calories hiking or biking in the morning to make room for the afternoon food and brews. As a bonus, the beer lines will no doubt be shorter than those at the more crowded Albuquerque events. Winning all around!

The Stephanie Hatfield Band will be playing their brand of eclectic indie folk rock starting at 2 p.m. If you’re not familiar, check them out at their web site. Bill Palmer’s TV Killers will be joining them.

The ski lifts will be operating from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., if you’d like to take the easy and fun route up the mountain. Other events include a bike race and a disc golf tournament (register online). The cafe will be open as well, serving up their excellent eats.

I know you’re here for the beer, so here is the current list of breweries that will be in attendance and the available beers from those that responded to Stoutmeister’s request for their lists. We also noted the breweries that are new to the event.

  • Bathtub Row: Grapefruit IPA, Little Bird Blonde, Irish Red, and Acid Canyon Sour, as well as a few wine options
  • Bosque: 1888 Blonde Ale, Elephants on Parade, IPA, Center Fielder Extra Pale Ale
  • Bow and Arrow (NEW): TBA
  • Boxing Bear: Uppercut IPA, New Mexikolsch, Black and Blue Tart, Cider
  • Red Door: English IPA, Blackberry Hefeweizen, Unhinged Cider, Vanilla Cream Ale
  • Red River (NEW): Lazy Bear Blonde, Greenie Peak Wheat, Midnight Meadows Oatmeal Stout, Bad Medicine Honey Double IPA
  • Second Street: TBA
  • Sierra Blanca: TBA
  • The 377: TBA
  • Tractor: TBA
  • Tumbleroot (NEW): TBA
  • Turtle Mountain: Pech Chilz Pico 12, Bocky Mountain High, Sup’s Sesh’d Session IPA, Tim’s Mom, Trivial Monstrosity, Rainbow in the Dunkel (Tim’s Mom will be tapped first, then once it runs out, Trivial will be poured on the same tap)

That’s a lot of quality beer! As we get more info about the beers, we will update this list right up until the start of the beer festival at 1 p.m.

Admission is $20, which includes unlimited sampling, a pint glass, and pint of your favorite brew. If you do plan on unlimited sampling and don’t want to drive, be sure to take the free shuttles that run from the high school in town.

For more information, visit the Facebook event page or Pajarito Mountain’s blog post.

Cheers!

— Reid

My Post-42

This Friday, Blue Corn is hosting their second annual Cask Festival at the southside location, bringing together at least half of the operational breweries north of La Bajada hill. OK, Burqueños, that’s that big hill between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Blue Corn organized this special event with seven excellent breweries on the roster, including one brand-new, not-yet-open (as of the writing of this article) place, Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery. Blue Corn has always been a great host for beer dinners. If you’ve read my articles, you’d already know it’s going to be an excellent way to spend your Friday night.

Why cask ales, you ask? Well, we all have mixed opinions about cask ales. Some of us enjoy them, some of us are indifferent. Some brewers don’t like to serve beer in them, but they’re a part of the industry, and some would argue it’s draught beer at its best. And, though the process has been around for ages, it’s not likely to go away any time soon, because it’s a part of beer history, and another interesting way to experience something we love.

With cask ales, something else is going on in the beer that makes it different and special, not just a foamy pour from a tap. You see, the active yeast used to carbonate the beer in these metal vessels continues to age the beer all the way until it has been tapped. As the beer ages and conditions, the CO2 created by the yeast will dissolve into the beer, smoothing out the flavors, blending as a painter does colors, and toning down the sharpness of the hops.

Oftentimes, and in a few of the cases below, brewers will add special ‘extras’ to these beers to give them a significant change in flavor profile, something they (as businesses) couldn’t do on a much larger scale, such as additions of fruit, extra dry-hops, honey, and so on. These flavors continue to condition with the beer, and give it more complexity than it had at the outset. Perhaps it loses something in the mouthfeel and in the warmer temperature, but it is still a fun way to test your palate with new flavors. Just imagine, for a minute, that if you could just cut straight through some of the high rocky peaks, you could discover the dense and beautiful vegetation at the bottom of the valley. And, there’s a history lesson in the process, if you really want to get into it. But, let that be your icebreaker at the event.

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Casks from the first Cask Festival at Blue Corn Brewery last year.

Blue Corn Brewery is no stranger to cask beers. As the title of the festival suggests, it’s not the first rodeo for the brewery. In fact, it’s not even the second. Blue Corn has held a few of these sorts of events in the past, and to great success. At one time, the brewery even used to release cask beers every Friday at the Draft Station in downtown Santa Fe. (Ah, the good ole’ days.) The best part of this event is that seven breweries are coming together on one night, to chill out, to laugh, to talk about everything from brewing process to mash paddle size … er, you know, brewer stuff. And, they’re totally accessible to you, the customers, if you’re not shy.

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Dave “Merkin,” head of R&D at Santa Fe Brewing Co., pours us a beer.

Go up to the guys with beards, glasses, or fruit-forward shirts. You’ll find them in the corners of the event — they’re the ones laughing the loudest, and having the most fun because they’re all buddies. They know how to enjoy these things, but, it’s not an exclusive club. These guys are friendly and will absolutely tell you about their favorite beer styles, favorite (other) breweries, favorite brewed beers, and so on. And, if you’re not feeling as chatty as I am after a couple beers, just ask them which brewery they brew for, and thank them for the hard work they do. Not all heroes wear capes, my friends.

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An appetizer from last year’s event.

Included in the price of these seven cask ales are seven appetizers of Blue Corn’s chef’s creation. In my experience, these bites have always been worth the price of admission, even without the beer.

Menu:

Blue Corn Brewery: Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with Cherries

            -Black Cherry Mousse with Chocolate Shavings

Santa Fe Brewing Co.: 7K All Day IPA

            -Marinated Pork Taco with Pickled Onions, Lime Cabbage and Cilantro

Duel Brewing: Fiction Belgian IPA with French Oak and Kaffir Lime Leaves

            -Salmon Ceviche with Habanero and Mango

Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery: Dry Irish Stout with Honey

            -Traditional Irish Stew

Second Street Brewery: XX ESB dry-hopped with Chinook and EKG

            -Beer Battered Alaskan Cod with Malt Vinegar Crisps

Bathtub Row Brewing Coop: Hoppenheimer IPA with Lemondrop Hops

            -Apple-Lemon Mini Cupcake with Mint

Rowley Farmhouse Ales: Biere de Garde with Brettanomyces

            -Gorgonzola Grilled Cheese with Herbed Portobello

Blue Corn was gracious enough to host this event, and we have a good number of participating breweries, but one is so new, that they haven’t sold a single beer in public, to my knowledge. Friday night at Blue Corn Brewery will be your first guaranteed chance to try a beer from Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery. I reached out to Jason Fitzpatrick, co-founder and manager of business operations, and asked him a few welcome-aboard questions.

DSBC: What does it mean to Tumbleroot to officially join the Santa Fe (as well as the whole New Mexico) beer scene?

Fitzpatrick: Joining the ranks of the talent brewers and operators in New Mexico is quite an honor. (Jason) Kirkman and I hatched the idea that was to become Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery two-and-a-half years ago, and the road was tough to get to this point. After many ups and downs throughout the process, we certainly have a greater appreciation for all of those who paved the way.

DSBC: What do you look forward to most about becoming part of this very vibrant scene? And, what are your hopes for your new establishment?

Fitzpatrick: We look forward to bringing something new and exciting to Santa Fe and New Mexico. We are inspired by bits and pieces of our experiences at taprooms, bars, restaurants, cocktail parties, family gatherings, concerts, and travels, and aim to bring all the best of those into one community-centric space. With a capacity for 400 people, our taproom can serve many different experiences at once. We hope that we have succeeded. We hope to become a second home for Santa Feans, and to inspire others to explore and connect with the community.

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Tumbleroot is here, as we saw with Jason Kirkman at Winterbrew 2018.

Why you should go?

For one thing, it’s always fun to taste a beer that’s exclusive to one event. It’s not something everyone can say they’ve had. And, it’s not something you’re likely to find again. The cask beers are usually very interesting, and certainly on the ‘extra’ end of the spectrum.

The food will be excellent and inspired, as it always is, because Blue Corn has a reputation to uphold for its beer dinners. I haven’t been let down yet.

Finally, this is a great opportunity to actually go up to and speak with brewers about what they do, how they make your beer, and what kind of beers they might be making next. Who knows? Your crazy suggestion might just end up in one of their fermenters and on the chalkboards. Or, as in my case, you might convince the brewer to brew something you once loved that’s no longer in the rotation.

The second annual Santa Fe Cask Fest is THIS Friday at 6:30 p.m. The cost of $30 per guest gets you a pour of each cask ale and seven appetizers, and a chance to shake the hand of most of the Santa Fe brewers. It’s a ticket with a built-in VIP pass, and you’re cordially invited. I look forward to seeing you there! To more beer beer events in Santa Fe, and a rapidly growing independent craft scene, we raise them up, cheers!

For reservations call 505-984-1800, or email manager@bluecornbrewery.com.
Address: 4056 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87507

— Luke

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If you see me at the event, say, “Hey!” I promise to be on my most reasonable behavior.

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Give ski season a proper farewell with craft beer on a mountain!

This Saturday, the Los Alamos Ski Club is hosting its 70th (!) annual Skiesta festival at Pajarito Mountain, just outside of Los Alamos. Given the extremely dry winter that’s wrapping up, the notion of a festival celebrating skiing may elicit a sigh or a yawn, but rest assured the show will go on! There will be skiing and snowboarding, of course, as well as:

  • Food from the cafeteria.
  • The band Escape on a Horse (alt-country/Americana), playing from 2 to 5 p.m.
  • A 1940s-themed costume contest.
  • And, you guessed it, local craft beer (served roughly from noon to 5 p.m.).

Breweries that will be attending and plying their wares include Bathtub Row, Blue Corn, Rowley Farmhouse Ales, Santa Fe, and Second Street. We were told that Taos Mesa had to bail out at the last minute, which was too late to change the event poster above. At my request, Stoutmeister asked the breweries for their beer lists. The theme clearly seems to be more malt-forward than hop-forward to fit the colder conditions, plus a few Irish-style beers for St. Patrick’s Day. If any other breweries send their lists, we will update this post.

  • Bathtub Row: California Common, AK Pale Ale, Mexican Lager, Irish Red
  • Blue Corn: Peaches ’n Cream, Glasgow Garnet Scotch Ale, Atomic Blonde, Road Runner IPA
  • Rowley Farmhouse Ales: TBA
  • Santa Fe: TBA
  • Second Street: Imperial Stout, U2 Irish Stout, Jordy’s Irish Red, Kohatu IPA, Kolsch, and one more TBA

As usual, complimentary bus service will be running from Sullivan Field next to Los Alamos High School every 30 minutes between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., so take advantage of that.

Cheers!

— Reid

The third annual Stout Invitational in Los Alamos was a big hit, for man and beast alike. (Photo by Jason Rutledge)

The third annual Stout Invitational went down this past Saturday at Bathtub Row Brewing in Los Alamos. Something seemed to come up the first two times, so this was the first that I could attend.  Stouts aren’t my first choice, but a beer challenge less than a mile from my house? I have to go.

I went to the 4 p.m. slot (the event is divided into three 90-minute sessions). Things were very  busy when I got there at 3:45. Despite the chaotic scene, the servers did a great job of giving everyone a tray with the 16 samples. As always with these sorts of events, I started out strong, but things got fuzzy and it became difficult to sort out the good from the great. Most of the stouts in attendance were worthy efforts. A few, such as the barrel-aged monster in spot No. 1 (which we later found was a massive 13-percent ABV!) and the sweet one at No. 5 stood out to me. The four of us at the table split 50/50, two preferring No. 1 and two (including me) selecting No. 5. Several others could have won in my book, but in the end you have to commit to one.

Jason Rutledge of Los Alamos, a member of the board of directors of Bathtub Row, emceed the event, kicking things off and later announcing the winners. For those who haven’t heard, here are the results:

  • 1st place: Three Rivers (beer #7)
  • 2nd place: Rio Bravo (beer #1)
  • 3rd place: Red Door (beer #5)

Kudos to Three Rivers for taking the prize! Their stout was a coconut one, and to be honest, it was not the favorite at our table, but enough people were in the mood for a tropical stout to give it the win. You now have extra motivation to visit them in Farmington if you haven’t yet.

Jason was kind enough to send us a bunch of photos that he took at the event. I’ve included them below mine. He’s a much better photographer, as you can see. He’s also a famous beer photographer. If you’d like to follow him on Instagram, he’s @jrutled.

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The winners and the mapping from brewery to beer number.

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Jason Rutledge announces the winners. Brewers Guild director John Gozigian (facing Jason) looks on.

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Jason kicks things off, with general manager Doug Osborn applauding on the side.

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Let the judging commence!

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A busy day at Bathtub Row.

 

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Yeah, that’s a good way to end the day.

The event was a lot of fun and gave a bunch of people an opportunity to check out Los Alamos. A big round of thanks to all of the people who helped: Jason, Doug Osborn, and the crew at Bathtub Row; John Gozigian and the New Mexico Brewers Guild; the s’mores servers out at the fire pit; and all of the breweries that participated. Here’s to next year’s Invitational!

Cheers!

— Reid

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Head brewer Brandon Venaglia, assistant general manager Ashley D’Anna, and general manager Doug Osborn are now running the show at Bathtub Row.

It’s time for one of the more distant breweries to report in for the Look Back/Look Ahead Series.  Bathtub Row Brewing entered its third year of business and had some substantial changes in personnel, but things are still going well in Los Alamos.

Before we get into the details, we want to let everyone know that the third annual NM Brewers Guild Stout Invitational will be held at Bathtub Row this Saturday. As in previous years, the event will bring together breweries from all over the state to showcase their finest stouts. Granted, the weather isn’t frigid and snowy (though it is colder in Los Alamos than in Albuquerque), but it is still a fine time of year to take in some darker brews. At the Invitational, you’ll be able to indulge in 16 samples of stouts, along with a pint of your favorite. Voting will occur, but unlike the IPA Challenge, this event is more collegial and low-key. It’s more of an excuse for everyone to take a road trip and have fun. There will be three two-hour sessions, at noon, 2, and 4 p.m. The breweries that will be in attendance:

  • Ale Republic
  • Bathtub Row
  • Blue Corn
  • Bosque
  • Canteen
  • Duel
  • Kaktus
  • Ponderosa
  • Quarter Celtic
  • Red Door
  • Rio Bravo
  • Santa Fe
  • Sidetrack
  • Spotted Dog
  • Three Rivers
  • Tractor

As of Tuesday, some tickets were still available. They can be purchased in person at Bathtub Row or online.

Now back to our regularly-scheduled programming. I sat down with general manager Doug Osborn and head brewer Brandon Venaglia to discuss the year gone by and the year ahead.

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The new fire pit adds heat and ambiance to the outdoor seating area, welcome additions now and at any time of the year.

DSBC: Let’s look back at 2017. I know you had staff changes. I’m looking at two of them right here. (Yet it) feels like you’ve been here forever, Doug.

Doug: I officially took over January 1, but I didn’t really take over until (previous GM Jason) Fitzpatrick was finished with the transition, which was I think almost four months after the fact. I’ve only been here three out of four quarters. It’s going well, it’s good. Co-ops have their own challenges. I was more focused on bartending and service, and now I’ve become more focused with accountants and attorneys.

DSBC: Attorneys?!

Doug: We’re actually researching copyrights right now, for naming our beers and things of that nature. I’d rather not even go into that because it’s kind of convoluted. We have certain beers that the name is being used somewhere else. We’re trying to figure out where we stand with that. It’s interesting, it’s a different mentality than just putting cold beers in people’s hands, which before was my focus, getting everybody the best beer they could as quick as they could. We borrowed a bunch of money from the community to start this place up, and this January was the first installment of paying them back. Every quarter all the folks who ponied up cash to get this place open will be paid back over the next four years.

DSBC: Is that working out okay?

Doug: Like any debt position, it’s a pain and you don’t want to do it, but we’re in a position where it’s not a problem.

DSBC: That means good planning on your part, and everyone that came before you.

Doug: The people before me. This is more of a Lego structure than people realize. We have a lot of little hands in there. There’s a lot of people involved (and) that can be a really good thing, or a really bad thing, where you try to not overlap with what people are doing. We have more committees than your average bar.

DSBC: You just want to be the king sometimes.

Doug: Sometimes it’s nice to just make decisions and do what you want to do, but I also believe that if you get enough smart people in the room, usually the right decision is made, even if it takes more time to get made.

DSBC: So you’re getting comfortable in the role now.

Doug: We’re getting there. We’ve made rookie mistakes, but nothing that most people would even notice.

DSBC: Didn’t affect the beer!

Doug: Didn’t affect the beer, didn’t affect the serving of the beer. Any time you start talking about liquor licenses, events, the taproom, insurance, workman’s comp, slips and falls, it’s a whole different learning curve. When I came up as a bartender and a taproom manager, cold beer in hand is the end-all. That’s not the case for a general manager. I have a lot of people helping me.

DSBC: Including this one right here. (Gestures to Brandon.) 2017 was interesting for you. Most of it you weren’t here (for), but you’re getting into the flow of things.

Brandon: I’m getting into the flow of things. It take some time to figure out where all of the pins go. We’re slowly organizing things around my personality. They tended to have strong personalities, the people that came before me, in one way or another. I’m bringing my own.

DSBC: That’s part of the job. Was there anything in 2017 that stood out?

Doug: We’re still in an upward growth curve. In 2017 we had just over double-digit growth, which is good for a business in its third year. A lot of hours went into the member loan program, as I mentioned. (The) fire pit is finally finished. That was the holy grail of fire pits; it seemed like it took forever. A lot of little things that you don’t think of, too. Up until a few months ago, all we had were the standard pint glasses. Now we have pilsener glasses, we have glasses with a wider mouth so you can get a better smell compared to the ones we had before that had more of a closed mouth.

DSBC: That’s a subtle thing, but it matters.

Doug: It’s subtle, but it counts, especially when you’re sampling. Ashley is our new assistant general manager. As my dad likes to say, I don’t have that many shopping days before Christmas and before I’m old enough to retire, (so) I want to make sure there’s a person who can do basically everything I can do when I walk out the door. I like to tell these guys, when I drop dead on this floor, there needs to be somebody who has a set of keys to this place. I don’t want them having to rummage around in my pockets. Ashley’s the new assistant manager, which is a new position. She’s taking on more duties than any taproom manager ever took on. Her job description is everything I do.

DSBC: It’s probably good to have a little redundancy there.

Doug: It’s very good. She and I are still trying to figure out how to not duplicate work. How to not answer the same email. We’ve streamlined a lot of process. I’ve been involved in a lot of startups where your first two years are just figuring out if you have a viable product. We’re past that, we finished that hurdle. We’re just out of diapers and learning how not to put a fork in the light socket. We’re inventing and re-inventing systems as we go that have never been in place as we go, simply because we’ve never had the volume to worry about.

Also, another thing that’s really cool is that it allows us to have a historical perspective about what we’ve done. “What did you do last February?” Well, we didn’t have a last February, but now we do, so we have something to judge off of. That’s been really interesting. Numbers don’t lie, and we can compile numbers. We can take a look at it and see that such-and-such beer sold as fast as it did.

Ashley’s dad was the main accountant for the county, and he’s retired. He’s pointing us in the right direction. He’s an Excel wizard. He’s looking at some of our data and telling us what’s coming into play. Because we’re a co-op, we draw on a lot of people. Because of my love of baseball, I love stats, and he’s introducing us to stats I never would have thought about. Like Hoppenheimer (IPA) is our biggest seller. That’s great, we can say we sold X amount over the year, but he’s telling us things like how fast it sold, which beers it sold against. We sold $5,000 worth of Hoppenheimer this month, great, but you can’t compare this month to August. Volumes in August are so much greater.

DSBC: The customer base here changes month to month.

Doug: We’ve had some interesting trends. We’ve had down days we can’t explain. Is it the snow? Is it economic trends? A little bit of both? Who knows? But, we have people helping us.

Brandon: We have a lot of engineers in the room.

DSBC: If science needs to be done, this is a good town to do it (in).

Doug: When you’re first starting to walk and then run, then you can make plans for the future. Do we need to consider canning, bottling, kegging, selling, getting a wine grower’s license to brew your own cider? We didn’t have that historical data before. It’s all good information. What we sell up here is completely different from what I sold at Marble in Santa Fe.

DSBC: That was about five years ago? Have things changed that much?

Doug: Very different. Different palate. IPAs are always strong. Barrel-aged stuff was very popular for a while, and I think lagers are coming back. We go through lagers faster than I’ve ever seen.

DSBC: Interesting. We also have an international community here. Maybe the Europeans prefer it?

Doug: Maybe. We always did well with the Pilsner at Marble, but not as well as we’ve done with Brandon’s Mexican Lager. Some of (the) other lagers have done really well, and I don’t know if that’s geographic location or it’s a market trend. Hard to say.

DSBC: It is a weird little community.

Doug: It is, it’s not as cut and dry as we like to think it is.

DSBC: Moving to 2018, are you expecting to make any changes in the brewing area?

Brandon: It’s going to be a little tough. We need to cruise for a while. We need to get the most out of what we have.

DSBC: It’s a good-sized system for this size place?

Brandon: Well, the amount of fermenters is. We’ve got it down to the point that our regular brew day is almost the same as a 7-barrel brew day. If we had a 7-barrel system, which we don’t; we have half that, but we’re still putting in seven barrels to brew.

Doug: We have a 3.5-barrel brewhouse and 7-barrel fermenters.

Brandon: We could go to a 7-barrel system, but it won’t happen this year. It’s going to be tough for a while. We’re doing well producing what we do. Hopefully in the future we’ll get to that, or even beyond that.

Doug: I think the focus for us going forward, though who knows because we have a board of directors, too, is to finalize some of the things we’re doing here. We’re going to focus on this taproom and this brewhouse before going out and conquering the world. This year we’re going to stop, take a breath, pay our bills, staff up, put our “A” team in place. Figure out where we are in the world.

DSBC: Nothing wrong with that.

Doug: People can experience some success relatively quickly in this industry. New taprooms, new systems, this, that. I think we’re getting a lot of use out of this place. We could always improve sales, but I think we need to find out who we are first (and) then refine that before we expand.

Service in this town has gotten better. Pajarito Brewpub is doing a very good job. Laura at Pig ‘n’ Fig is serving beer now, and she’s doing a very good job. Blue Window has moved and is doing a good job. The VFW is doing a lot of promotion and trying to get our customers, and they should. There’s still a lot of expansion to happen with all of our businesses. Across the way, UnQuarked is getting better and better.

DSBC: They even have beer now.

Doug: Yeah, the competition has upped their game. The product is better across the board. It’s good for all of us. We have a good relationship with most of the people that are our competitors.

DSBC: You’re not looking to get into food, right?

Doug: Not yet. We’ve got the pizza place across the street that just opened up. It’s great, they have things we don’t have. They have an arcade. Parents come for a beer and kids go play video games. Having pizza and salad and wings allows us to send our customers to go get food. We don’t have to clean a kitchen. Food’s hard. Margins aren’t great. It’s a good thing for everybody. Even the chocolatier across the way, and Sirphey is available at UnQuarked.

DSBC: Anything else coming for 2018?

Doug: I’m fiscally conservative, so I don’t like debt on my books. I want to pay off member loans as soon as possible. It’s a more than manageable amount, but if I can pay it off I will.

DSBC: And once it’s paid off, that’s it?

Doug: That’s it, no more debt service. At that point, we’ll probably pay dividends to our owners. But, before we consider that, I want to make sure my employees have health benefits. We’re a co-op, which means we need to be kinder and gentler across the board to our community and our employees. If our employees are worried about their kid’s dental appointment or whatever, then they’re not efficient employees. As a co-op, we don’t have to show huge margins and there’s not a small number at the top taking advantage of the profits, there’s going to be more profit to be shared. We’re up to around 18 employees now. There’s 10 to 15 families that cash checks to keep their lights on. If we can provide more of that type of good will in our community and amongst our employees, then that’s the next goal.

DSBC: You mentioned that you’re getting a cider license?

Doug: We’re going to fill out the paperwork. I have the paperwork on my desk. Boxing Bear has a great product. Their cider is what we use. I like the guys there. They’ve been nothing but fantastic. People like their cider. It’s a gluten-free option. We’re going to run the numbers and see, does it make more sense to sell Boxing Bear’s or make our own? I’d love to do it, (and) if we can, we will.

DSBC: Well, hopefully we’ll look forward to a cider.

Doug: It takes a long time, six to eight months. We have some time to figure out if it’s worth it.

DSBC: OK, that’s it then. Thanks for your time.

Cheers!

— Reid