Brewery Showcase | Nuckolls Brewing (Sante Fe, NM)
It was 4:45 on a weekday in the Santa Fe Railyard, and Nuckolls Brewing was already in full swing. There were 25 people in the beer line and a party of contemporary art gallerists were hobnobbing near the copper-accented bar. Clearly, this was the new Santa Fe hotspot.
About the Brewery
At this point, Nuckolls had only been open five weeks, and only one of their beers, a Nuckolls Rail Ale, was on tap. The other 15 or so available beers were local offerings from the likes of Second Street, Beer Creek, and Santa Fe Brewing. Three copper lagering tanks were built into the wall above the row of taps, which added to the warm glow of the wood-and-steel tasting room.
Brewer Jennifer Treu had come to Nuckolls from Rowley Farmhouse Ales just down Cerillos Road in Santa Fe. Before that, she’d been brewing at Monkish Brewing, Three Weavers (before it was bought out by Oskar Blues) and Austin Beer Works. She’s got a personality that suits a brewer: quiet, focused, and detail-oriented.
Treu described Nuckolls Rail Ale as a traditional ale with a caramel malt flavor bittered with a hint of Centennial and Cascade hops. She’d used an SL5 dry yeast for it, which she plans to use for most of Nuckolls beers until they start propagating their own.
Then she offered a taste of the next beer that would go on the board: the Locomotive IPA, a 7.3 ABV dry hopped with El Dorado and Mosaic. It hadn’t been clarified or carbonated yet, but it was already crisp and enjoyable. A Pilsner made with traditional German hops is also in the making.
Nuckolls is using a three-barrel system, which Treu says allows her to be more artistic and intentional than she can be when working with giant 60-120 barrel systems like she has at larger breweries. And it turns out that the copper lagering tanks in the tasting room are, in fact, hard piped from the brewhouse and will serve the taps below. The tanks contain removable liners to keep them clean between fills.
Red Chile Porter
Nuckolls has plans for four in-house beers at this point. The most interesting of the quartet is the red chile porter, developed by co-brewer David Ahern-Seronde, owner of local sensation Apickleypse Hot Sauce. It’s probably a law that every New Mexico brewery has to have a chile beer, and Ahern-Seronde answered New Mexico’s State Question (Red or Green?) with a resounding “Red!” He likes the combination of chile and chocolate, and notes that a porter has enough of a big, roasty body foundation to support some red chile, which flavors the beer with more of a stone fruit than a hot profile.
In order to prevent the chile oils from killing the beer’s foam, Ahern-Seronde used dry flakes with the oil-producing bits — the seeds and pith — removed. This beer wasn’t available for a taste yet, but it will be the one to try.
Nuckolls taproom and grounds have been thoughtfully designed. The rebar and steel patio is enormous, and rises above an equally large beer garden. A couple of UFO art installations by Bob Davis are parked on-site, because in New Mexico you could apparently get beamed up at any moment.
Tucked below the taproom itself is a specially-designed water recycling system, and this is where Bill Banowsky, one of the brewery’s owners, is often found. He said that once the system is in operation it will rescue four gallons of beer waste water for every gallon of beer made. This will be used to water the beer garden and the raised beds where they’ve started growing hops.
The brewery is playing its part in local agriculture by sending its spent grain to a local farm and plans are in the works to buy their chickens for the menu. Treu says the enormous Saturday farmer’s market hosted in the Railyard is an opportunity for more collaboration between farmers and the brewery.
While they are slow-rolling their own beer offerings, Nuckolls is one to watch. The brewer has solid roots, and the two beers she’s put out so far are as good as their regional cousins on tap. And the Railyard is, shall we say, picking up steam. Surrounding Nuckolls Brewing, one can find movies, coffee, restaurants, a bookstore, art (and the second location of Second Street Brewery), but it doesn’t feel like a “development.” It’s still a working railyard with a depot, and trains depart daily: a commuter train that runs to and from Albuquerque, and the excursion train, the Sky Railway. (Banowsky is also an investor in that venture.)