This story was originally published at EatABQ, the city's food, restaurant and drinks guide. EatABQ is a publication of The Paper, ABQ's new alternative, independent weekly.
New Head Brewer Speaks on Seasonal Draughts
I think it is fair to say that many of us could use a pint as we deal with the election and its aftermath. And while The Paper. is not condoning going out for drinks as COVID rates soar across the state, we do think that once a drink with friends seems safe you should consider this local upstart on the corner of Garfield and Yale SE. For one, they have a spacious back patio with a good dozen feet between their round tables. And their new head brewer, Nick Tackett, has been dedicated to the craft since, well, before he legally should have been.
The Paper.: What life experiences and credentials led you to the coveted position of head brewer?
Nick P. Tackett: I’ve been working in and out of liquor stores and breweries for the past 15 years. Long before that, back in the early days of high school, I was crafting booze out of random juices and baker’s yeast that I kept stashed under my bed. Eventually, I got really into home-brewing, particularly focusing on ciders and meads. A friend’s parents had an old wooden fruit press that you had to crank by hand. That made for a fun process. After messing around with many iterations of alcoholic beverages over the years, I decided to take my hobby and build a career out of it by attending CNM’s brewing program. I learned heaps and graduated from there with an associate’s degree. While taking those courses, I was also interning with the old head brewer at Differential—kegging and cleaning and brewing and then carbonating all the beers. So I learned the ropes over time. And then back in August, on a Monday, they asked if I was ready. And that Tuesday, I was up.
What would you say sets this brewery apart from the plethora of others that have cropped up around town over the last decade?
So the biggest thing that separates Differential from other local breweries is that we don’t make an India Pale Ale. We concentrate on beers that fall between 4 and 6 percent alcohol, so that you can come and sit down with a group of friends for hours on end without getting all wasted. We don’t want to be serving up 10-plus percent drinks with tons and tons of hops that often turn into, like, bitter bombs that leave your tastebuds wrecked. We wanted to focus on nice, clean, easy-to-drink beers that you can socialize over … though clearly this is not the best time in our lives to be doing that. But unlike many others in town, we have both a sizable front patio and a massive back one with tables spread 15 feet apart. You can come and stay pretty well isolated.
Are there any beers you’ve sampled recently available at package liquor spots around town that you would recommend as the temperature starts to drop?
Definitely. This is honestly my favorite time of year. Fall is when all the heavy-hitters come out that you probably shouldn’t be imbibing at a brewery, especially if you plan to drive home. The Founders Brewery just came out with the KBS Maple Mackinac Fudge Imperial Stout. It’s got coffee, fudge and all sorts of delicious chocolatey flavors and at 11 percent A.B.V. So basically a delicious dessert that will get you pretty damn buzzed. Between now and February, if you like stouts and porters, just keep your eyes peeled as all kinds of heavy dark beers will be hitting the shelves. You’ve also got your Christmas beers. Supposed to taste like a Christmas tree or a yule log and a bunch of these are coming out these days too. A good example of this done right is Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale. It’s really just a nice light pale ale with a slightly more pronounced hop profile than their regular offering.
Tell me about the stout that you are working on as we speak.
One of my favorite beers of all time—it may have been the first bomber I ever had as a young lad—was called Sheaf Stout. I continued to drink it until quite recently when they discontinued imports of these wonderful 0.75 liters to the states. It is originally an Australian product. Back when I lived in Melbourne, working at the James Squire Brewhouse, it was branded as Invalid Stout. But turns out it has a different name and label in each state or territory down there, because they have breweries all over producing the stuff. The Sheaf Stout version, I believe, was made in Canada for U.S. export. I’ve been missing it, to be honest, so I decided to let my memories of this rather light stout guide my hand in crafting our own wheated stout. Beside the nearly 20 percent wheat mash bill, I also put in oat flakes, which will act with the wheat to give it that nice thick body and viscous head people associate with a good stout. Then, while driving through Bernalillo, I spotted an older lady selling freshly roasted and salted pinon on the side of the road and realized that I could process and sterilize the pinon and then throw them into the top of the fermenter to get a more local flavor profile. I’m kegging this up right now as we speak, so it should be out there and on tap by mid-November.
Do you have anything else in the works that you are excited for and would like to share with our readers?
Well, since I’ve taken the position as head brewer I’ve re-worked our pale ale. The regulars who already liked it are now singing its praises even higher. I’ve also developed a rice lager that will be super light and eloquent, though that won’t be ready for a while as it needs to sit in the keg. In fact, that is why they are called lagers; because you have to lager them. Another brew I came up with and that we now have on tap is based on a very traditional Bavarian lager known as a helles. As we don’t really have any heavily hopped beers on offer, I went ahead and just hopped the hell out of it. Ha, pun intended. It’s called the Year from Helles which seems to speak pretty well to 2020. It’s going fast, so come get your helles. [ ]