Posts Tagged ‘Desert Valley Brewing’

The ups and downs of having a full kitchen, or not, continue to vex many local breweries.

A small news item crossed our desk today (Monday) when we found out that Turtle Mountain is adding new items to its food menu. This is something that happens all the time in the restaurant business, where the palates of diners and their interests ebb and flow, often unpredictably. While several of the dishes look like things we have to try (hello, Ruidoso Ribs), it got us thinking again about the ongoing issue of breweries and food.

A few years back, the success of Marble and La Cumbre seemingly heralded the new model would be kitchen-free, relying instead on food trucks and neighboring restaurants. The brewpub was a dying breed, but a funny thing happened on the way to all of this happening. The brewpub did not die, it just had to be revamped and reborn, much like the restaurant industry as a whole (though that whole is far slower to adapt to change, as we see in the current decline in the national chains as more and more close here in ABQ and other parts of the country).

The most recent trend has seen breweries that previously had little or no food expanding to full kitchens. Bosque just had a few appetizers and panini-press sandwiches, until the decision was made to go the full kitchen route. The opening of the second, larger Las Cruces taproom saw the arrival of a full kitchen down south, while Nob Hill has recently expanded into the old Wise Pies space so it can also have a full kitchen, much like the original San Mateo location (and that full kitchen will head to the new mothership location being built along the Interstate 25 frontage road).

Boxing Bear expanded its kitchen and menu, while Tractor added a small food menu to its new Four Hills taproom. Now comes the word that Tractor will turn the old merchandise nook at Wells Park into a small food area as well (if you went to the Stranger Things Arcade Carnival before Halloween, you saw a preview of this).

Rio Bravo had long ago kept a space for a future kitchen, located just on the south side of the main bar area. After struggling with food trucks (more on that below) for a while, the decision was finally made to essentially outsource the in-house food production to The Burger Stand, which already had locations in Taos and Santa Fe.

As more new breweries seek to open, most, if not all, are advertising that they will indeed have in-house food. The most recent new brewery to open, Bombs Away Beer Company, did not open with any food, but its owner already mentioned that he has a space set aside for what seems like an inevitable addition of a small food prep area.

The need for in-house food is seemingly being driven by two things. First, the consumer demand is there. Second, the food truck situation in town has been slipping, from what a number of brewery owners have told us. Many of the best food trucks have either shut down or been so successful that they have been able to open brick-and-mortar restaurants. The best of what remain are now stretched thin across the metro area due to the proliferation of so many taprooms and breweries. While established, large breweries like La Cumbre, Marble, and Tractor are still able to keep the best of the best food trucks parked outside, other breweries have struggled immensely to fill out their schedules with reliable trucks.

Food is still a tricky thing for breweries. A kitchen, whether limited or full, adds another layer of inspections and regulations, many of them even tighter than what exists for beer production. Having food on site is no guarantee of increased business. It certainly did not save the Firkin Brewhouse or Albuquerque Brewing, or perhaps most prominently, Chama River. Even places with well-established reputations for having top-notch kitchens, like Nexus and Turtle Mountain, are constantly having to adjust and adapt to the changing tastes of consumers. One could debate whether or not people are even pickier about food than beer, but it often seems that way around Albuquerque.

It can also be debated as to where the food-versus-no-food debate falls geographically. Desert Valley opened its West Side taproom with a full kitchen and has gone to great lengths to promote it as a food-first establishment. After initially opening the Nexus Silver taproom sans food, the decision was recently made to begin serving food there. It can be argued that food is almost necessary in areas with a denser neighborhood population, like Nob Hill or the Northeast Heights, as opposed to the more nightlife-oriented aspects of downtown, the Brewery District, and Wells Park (though things are changing at some of the breweries located in that district).

The issue can then become how customers view and treat brewpubs versus breweries. Reading the less-than-kind comments online for many brewpubs, they often seem to focus mainly on the food itself and the service, rather than the beer. Food seems to be more polarizing than beer, while the expectation of service is often higher in what many regard as more of a restaurant than bar setting. It often seems that for every benefit about having a kitchen, there is a significant drawback as well. Finding the balance in between is an ongoing challenge, with no easy answers.

What is the future of the brewpub model? Cantero Brewing is gambling that it will be of the popular farm-to-table variety, as the forthcoming brewery fights to overcome the fact it took over the old Firkin space, one of the least desirable physical locations for any brewery. The other newcomers will have to make up their own minds.

As always, we want to know what all of you think, so we designed a rather simple poll below. Add your comments here or on social media. The more the breweries know about what we want from them in terms of food is better for everyone involved.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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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.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

It sure looks like Hops Brewery is getting close to opening in Nob Hill.

Goodness gracious, beer notes on a Friday. Whatever has come over me?

Brewers Association takes a stand against offensive labels

An emerging point of contention for craft beer has been the use of blatantly sexist or offensive labels and imagery by certain breweries. Luckily, New Mexico breweries have largely managed to avoid these sorts of things, but it has become a battleground issue in other states.

Well, the Brewers Association weighed in on all of it at the just-wrapped Craft Brewers Conference in Washington D.C. To say that the BA brought the hammer down might be a bit of an over-simplification, as it remains to be seen how it will all play out in terms of penalties and the like, but it is a big step forward to getting craft beer away from a juvenile mindset. Craft beer is still an industry dominated by white males working on the production side. That does not mean it should act like a stereotypical bad college fraternity.

Here is the exact wording the BA sent out in a press release Thursday:

“The BA updated its Marketing and Advertising Code to help brewers maintain high standards and act as responsible corporate citizens. New language has been included to address that beer advertising and marketing materials should not use sexually explicit, lewd, or demeaning brand names, language, text, graphics, photos, video, or other images that reasonable adult consumers would find inappropriate for consumer products offered to the public. Any name that does not meet the Marketing and Advertising Code that wins a BA produced competition including the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) or World Beer Cup will not be read on stage or promoted in BA materials, and will not be permitted to use the GABF or World Beer Cup intellectual properties in their marketing. Additionally, the BA has convened an Advertising Complaint Review Board should an issue arise that warrants further review and action.”

This should make for a fascinating GABF in October, especially if multiple medal winners are not read aloud during the awards ceremony. More information can be found on the official BA website.

If you want to share your thoughts or ask questions about all of this, please do so via any of our social media outlets. Or, if you would prefer to contact us directly, use nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com.

Southwest Bacon Fest returns

We almost completely forgot about the Bacon Fest until Marble shared the fact it is taking the aptly named Bacon’s Best Friend to the event, which runs this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Balloon Fiesta Park.

Unlike the Food Truck Festival organizers, we were never contacted by the Bacon Fest P.R. people, so it slipped through the cracks. In a late scramble, we sent out an email to 11 of the 14 attending breweries for whom we have current contact information. Unfortunately, many key brewery staffers are still en route back from the aforementioned CBC, so we only heard back from three (so far). If any others update us with their lists, we will add them here.

  • Marble: Bacon’s Best Friend (Rauchbier), Double White, IPA, Red Ale, Pilsner, DANG Pale Ale
  • Quarter Celtic: Pedro O’Flanigan, Crimson Lass, Quarter Porter, Clark IPA
  • Rio Bravo: La Luz Lager, Snakebite IPA, Lemongrass Wit, Cherry Sour, Pinon Coffee Porter

We still hope to hear back from Bosque, Boxing Bear, Canteen, Chama River, Kaktus, Palmer, Starr Brothers, and Tractor. We do not currently have contact info for Abbey, Cottonwood (Desert Water), or Santa Fe.

Hops Brewery looks like its almost ready

Based on that photo way up at the top, it sure looks like Hops Brewery is getting ready to open soon in Nob Hill. The current Albuquerque Rapid Transit construction should not get in the way too badly, so the Crew will be keeping an eye out if an official announcement appears. It has been a long, long road for Hops, which we first heard about as far back as early 2013. Let us hope only a few final touches need to be applied before they can start serving beer.

Otherwise there is nothing new to report on the new brewery front. We have not heard that Bare Bones Brewing has found a new home in the Cedar Crest area after their initial space fell through over issues with a new landlord. Bombs Away Beer Company has joined the NM Brewers Guild, but beyond that and a physical address near Moon and Central, there is nothing new there, either.

Oh, and Desert Valley Brewing officially has an active small brewer license. The main operation is still located next to the Craftroom near Menaul and the I-25 frontage road. The old Stumbling Steer space they are taking over will be an off-site taproom. They have a pending license for that with the state now.

If anyone out there hears about news involving new or forthcoming breweries, please send it to us using the usual ways (email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

See some of you downtown Saturday for the Easter Beer Hunt and/or Tart at Heart 3.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The brewers at Starr Brothers were all too happy to receive the official NMDSBC Stout Challenge trophy.

The brewers at Starr Brothers were all too happy to receive the official NMDSBC Stout Challenge trophy.

Every now and again, a story, even a short one, slips through the cracks. A few weeks back, I visited Starr Brothers and got a quick tour of the brewery’s expansion, took some photos, and I completely forgot to post anything.

Time to rectify that. As noted in our Look Back/Look Ahead Series story, Starr Brothers has expanded into the space next door, knocking out the wall in order to expand their brewing area. The photos I took should show most of it, but basically head brewer Rob Whitlock has a lot more room to maneuver. They have added multiple tanks, and have a second, larger walk-in cooler that will be used for distribution. Yes, Starr Brothers is sending kegs to other places now, though there are no plans to move into canning or bottling (at least not yet).

The pictures will tell the rest of the story.

The new walk-in cooler is quite a bit larger than its predecessor.

The new walk-in cooler is quite a bit larger than its predecessor.

More fermenters? Yup.

More fermenters? Yup.

starrbrothersexpansion3

There is still a lot of open space back there for future expansion.

If this all means Rob can keep Foggy Monocle, the oatmeal stout that claimed top honors at the Crew’s 2017 Stout Challenge, on tap at all times, then everyone wins. See how much the official Stout Challenge trophy makes Rob smile up above? Yeah, a good stout does that for us.

Desert Valley moves west

One of the forthcoming breweries in Albuquerque is taking over some familiar turf. Desert Valley Brewing, which is associated with the same folks who own The Craftroom and Sandia Hard Cider, is moving into the brewing space that never was for The Stumbling Steer.

The Steer fizzled out in 2015, with the building then taken over and chopped into different storefronts. Part of the restaurant area became Vernon’s Open Door, but financial problems eventually sank that operation, much like the Steer before it. The brewing area, which was never put into service before the Steer’s demise, was supposed to have become a brewery that would serve its beers via all the various Vernon’s and Wise Pies properties, but that idea never got off the ground. Now, finally, an actual brewery is moving to take over that portion of the property.

The restaurant portion of the building is being taken over by the owner of Matanza, though whether he will open a west-side version of the popular Nob Hill eatery/beer bar, or try a new concept, is unclear right now.

For now, Desert Valley’s small brewer license is still listed as pending on the State of New Mexico’s website, and it is unknown how long it will take them to get things running out there (for instance, we don’t even know how much of the brewing equipment is in place, or if some may need to be added, replaced, or repaired). Rest assured, we will try to touch base with the team behind Desert Valley and learn more.

Updating the rest of the newcomers

They're not gonna open small in Los Ranchos. (Courtesy of Steel Bender)

They’re not gonna open small in Los Ranchos. (Courtesy of Steel Bender)

There are seven other breweries with pending licenses in varying stages of development, plus one more about to open.

Steel Bender Brewyard in Los Ranchos already has their license approved and has begun brewing. They still project a mid-March opening and should have an announcement shortly as to the exact date of their grand opening. At least two notable brewers have stopped by to look around, and both came away quite impressed. The Crew will be visiting Steel Bender as soon as there are beers to taste and everything is relatively settled.

As for the other seven, we have no new updates on Bare Bones Brewing (Cedar Crest) or Bombs Away Beer Company (Albuquerque). The magic of social media has informed us, via lots of pictures, that the buildout is underway for both Drylands Brewing (Lovington) and Truth or Consequences Brewing.

Lava Rock Brewing, the new project from former Firkin Brewhouse brewer Aaron Walters, is moving along on the west side on Unser north of Ladera. The aim is still for a summer opening.

We had not heard anything new on Hops Brewery in Nob Hill until a recent visit to another brewery revealed that Hops was now buying grain and getting ready to brew its first beers. The long-delayed project may finally be nearing its opening, but as Hops still does not have any website or social media accounts, that is all we know for now.

Finally, a new name to file away, Glencoe Distillery & Brewery, which is set to open a few miles east of Ruidoso. The original newspaper story did not mention brewing, so our guess is that was added later on to the plan. Hey, it works for Broken Trail up here, maybe it will work in the mountains down south, too.

For every opening, a closing

Twisted Chile gives Socorro its first in-town brewing operation in years.

Twisted Chile will be bidding farewell soon, though a new owner could bring it back eventually.

OK, not quite, but there have been a couple brewery closings of late. For those that missed it on social media or in The Week Ahead in Beer last week, Twisted Chile will be closing its doors in Socorro. After originally listing April 1 as the grand finale, March 25 will now be the end of the line, at least for the current owners. The brewery name, recipes, and food menu are for sale right now, but in a twist, the brewing equipment is actually owned by the property owner.

Yes, Albuquerque Brewing is closed. We have most of the story as to why, but they have asked us to withhold sharing any of it until all the legal issues are cleared up.

We have still not received word as to when Pi Brewing expects to reopen. The repairs to the outer wall, damaged by a car way back on New Year’s Day, have taken a lot longer than anyone expected. Rest assured, though, Pi will be back.

National IPA Challenge update

No brewery in America has ever pulled off back-to-back victories.

There will be no three-peat for Bosque, but other New Mexico IPAs are still in the running.

The National IPA Challenge, put on every year by The Brewing News, is well underway. Two of the four brackets have concluded, Session IPA and Specialty IPA. The latter saw Dialogue Brewing’s Belgium Citrus IPA reach the finals, and even though it lost to 42 North Brewing’s White Oak Borderland IPA, it was still a heck of an accomplishment for a brewery that isn’t even six months old.

As for the big brackets, the sizable New Mexico contingent in each has been whittled down. There are only 16 beers left, with two from our state left in the Imperial IPA bracket and three in the regular IPA bracket.

The last two imperial entries are Bosque’s Moon Cannon and Second Street’s Imperial IPA (both of which are currently available on tap, FYI). Moon Cannon will face Knee Deep’s Lupulin River, while Imperial IPA takes on Two Roads’ Two Juicy. If both advance to the quarterfinals, they will face each other.

As for the main bracket, Bosque’s back-to-back reigning champion Scale Tipper was knocked out in the third round by another hop powerhouse, Fat Heads’ Head Hunter IPA. The survivors from New Mexico are Quarter Celtic’s Clark, La Cumbre’s Project Dank, and Boxing Bear’s Bear Knuckle. If they all advance to the quarterfinals and move on from there, New Mexico could end up with three of the final four. It will not be easy, however, as Clark takes on Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ Hopcelot IPA, Project Dank battles Flying Bison’s Buffalo IPA, and Bear Knuckle goes paw-to-toe with Sunriver’s Vicious Mosquito, which knocked out Dialogue’s Centennial IPA back in the second round.

We also got this fun little statistic from Boxing Bear’s David Kim: “Some fun data to show just what NM is doing year after year in this competition. From 2014-2017 NM has had more beers reach the round of 16 (14 beers) than any other state. Oregon is second with 13, California is third with 11, and Ohio is fourth with 7 beers. All other states had no more than 3 beers reach the “sweet 16” of this competition.”

We’ll just go ahead and change the state slogan to “The Land of Hopchantment.”

Sampler tray

  • No news is good news, right? We are still waiting to find out when House Bill 398, the companion piece to the defeated Senate Bill 314, is going to be heard in committee. This legislative session is nearing its end, so plenty of political fireworks remain. Rest assured, the minute we know something, you will, too.
  • For those who say the Crew is too focused on Albuquerque and Santa Fe, we hear you. Look for a story on Farmington’s Three Rivers Brewery in the near future, plus we do intend to hit up lots of other breweries, new and old, in the coming months, from Roosevelt in Portales to Milton’s in Carlsbad to Enchanted Circle in Angel Fire, and as many others as our schedules allow.
  • Word on the street, and social media, has plenty of collaboration brews coming up in the next few weeks and months. Steel Bender has brewed with Canteen and Marble, while Chama River and Nexus have something new coming soon. Marble, in fact, is putting the word out to breweries around town to come brew together at the Northeast Heights location. We would almost think brewmaster Josh Trujillo is bored or something, but at the rate he keeps churning out awesome new seasonals, that can’t possibly be the case.
  • We will have a full preview of La Cumbre’s Cask Ales Festival on Thursday. Also, the early reveal of the Albuquerque Beer Week schedule is almost upon us. It kicks off May 25.

That is all for now, or at least all I can remember. If anyone out there has beer news, notes, and tips to share, contact us via social media or at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister