It’s been about five years since a group of local entrepreneurs set out to build a world-class music venue/brewery on a lonely piece of sage desert west of Taos.
Now, with just about all regulatory obstacles cleared and their custom-designed Quonset hut nearing completion, the guys at Taos Mesa Brewing are almost open for business.
“After five years, it feels like we’re at the starting line,” says Dan Irion, one of four partners who plan to soon open Taos Mesa Brewing to the public.
Irion says inspectors have been by to have a look at the structure and make a list of loose ends that need tying up. Irion and his partners are eager to get going, and they’re hustling to finish. “We’ve been burning the midnight oil to get things done,” he says.
Regardless of whether the building is finished and permitted for occupants, the brewery plans to host a solstice party and open house at its location Saturday (June 23) starting at 3 p.m. The brewery hopes to be open for regular business shortly thereafter.
The Taos Mesa Brewing complex stands on 5 acres across U.S. 64 from the landfill and the airport. The site includes a brewery, bar, indoor music venue, beer garden, two outdoor stages and a volleyball court.
Out on an mostly empty expanse heading to the Gorge Bridge, the partners say land was reasonably priced, and the brewery had plenty of elbow room. Irion shrugs off a suggestion that the brewery is far from town. “It’s only three minutes from the blinking light,” he says. “It’s not far.”
Peter Kolshorn, a founding member of the brewery and sustainable builder, said the Quonset hut design for the main building made sense. “It’s the simplest way to capture space,” Kolshorn says. “What we’ve done is enhanced it. Custom-designed it.”
Kolshorn stands behind a buffed-concrete bar he built and inlaid with a mosaic of broken glass, fossils and bike gears. The bathroom walls are etched with interesting tile work and designs. Many materials were salvaged from old buildings and construction sites and incorporated in creative ways into the new structure.
Kolshorn explains that one of the company’s primary goals is to be as “carbon-neutral” as possible. Rain catchment systems are planned to provide water for future landscaping, and the building itself was designed to catch heat that can be used in the brewing process. In the midst of the county’s most industrial area, Kolshorn envisions an oasis.
To capitalize on the expansive views, the eastern wall of the building is a giant window that looks directly at the summit of Vallecito Mountain — one of the most picturesque sections of the Sangre de Cristos. The bar is right next to the same window, which also offers a view of the beer garden and outdoor stages.
To soften the echo inside the hut and adapt it to host concerts, the brewery hired acoustics experts Andy Byrd and Patrick Ternmyer. The solution to the vibrations: Rubber plumage that mimics raven’s wings surrounding the stage. Irion — a musician in the local band, Last to Know — explains that as noise strikes the individual “feathers,” sound dissipates. “We don’t kill the sound,” Irion said. “We control it.”
Irion said bookings for future shows are “on the horizon,” but no specific band names have yet been mentioned.
Behind the stage is the company’s brewery. Irion said the company’s seven-barrel brewing system came from two separate breweries based in Pennsylvania. Jayson Wylie, also a founding member, is known around Taos as an exceptional brewer.
Once things get rolling, the brewery plans to have six to nine distinct beers on tap at all times. The lineup will include five “staple” products, with three to four seasonal or specialty beers in rotation. Beer names and descriptions on the company’s website include Kachina Kolsch, Black Widow Porter and Lunch Pale Ale.
The company recently got approval to make and sell its own wine, and the bar will also carry beer from other New Mexico breweries. Food will be sold on site from a trailer that formerly housed El Gamal.
When Taos Mesa Brewing was first gaining steam, the partners struggled to get their special use permit and liquor license past the Taos County Commission. Though the meetings were tense at times, the partners are adamant that they have nothing but respect for the county and appreciate what they now see as constructive criticism.
Attorney and founding member Gary Feuerman says Taos Mesa Brewing’s business plan relies almost entirely on selling beer. Musicians and festivals simply turn people on to the brew. “The craft beer industry grew by 15 percent last year, and we’ve got a lot of room to penetrate that market,” Feuerman says, adding that the company plans to distribute to bars or restaurants across New Mexico. It could be years before they bottle or can its beer.
With long-standing brewery Eske’s, and recently opened Taos Ale House, Feuerman says Taos may finally be showing up on the regional microbrewery radar. “It’s better to have multiple breweries because it makes [Taos] a focus,” he says.