Gary Feuerman and I are standing next to the converted shipping container beside the upper-deck parking lot at Taos Mesa Brewing’s newly opened downtown location. We had met for lunch and shared a few plates that allowed me to sample a variety of dishes on the menu. All organic ingredients—freshly prepared and presented—were a healthy, delightful surprise at an establishment known primarily for its beer.
While we ate and chatted about the newly opened space, Feuerman had pointed out the pipelines running across the entire ceiling of the sprawling interior. “That’s the beer on tap,” he explained. “Twenty four varieties all stored in a converted shipping container adjacent to the building.”
I’m pretty impressed; in what was long a vacant, former artist’s studio, the Taos Mesa Brewing team have transformed the large, cavernous building into a series of cosy, comfortable spaces. Two bars, a pool room, a lounge and two terraces filled up as we ate at the bar in the room overlooking the Paseo.
The new location had a soft opening just days prior. “A stealth opening,” says Feuerman. “We opened with zero fanfare and kept it on the lowdown and it was perfect.”
“There were enough people to give us a sense of how it was going to work without subjecting the staff to mayhem.” He laughs.Taos Mesa Brewing bills itself as a microbrewery, restaurant and indoor/outdoor “brewclub.” Besides the 24 beers on tap, the space boasts a temperature-controlled cellar (great for wines and barrel-aged beers) and two wood-fired pizza ovens.
Plans include a wine list that will reflect the quality control the brewery extends to its beer, and many of the new brews in the works and on tap are aged and refined beyond anything they’ve done thus far.
In the few years since opening the original location on the Mesa, TMB has garnered acclaim from critics and connoisseurs for the brews they have been producing.
“It all starts with the Mothership,” Feuerman says as I marvel at all they’ve done in so short a period of time. Along with the brewery, the “Mothership” as it’s affectionately referred to by the TMB managing partners, is a prime player in a bona fide new music scene here in Taos.
In partnership with a variety of independent promoters, Taos Mesa Brewing has hosted several big-name artists, from Lucinda Williams to Steve Earle, with too many to mention in between.
As I get ready to walk to my car, which I’ve parked neatly in the shade of an old cottonwood that spreads its branches over a corner of the lot, I ask Feuerman to tell me how it all began.
“I was going to these parties that were happening in a warehouse on Tune Drive,” he says. “It was a really cool, underground Taos scene.”
While these informal events were cherished among local musicians and were in a way, their own small scene, Dan Irion, one of the main forces behind the warehouse and a member of local band Last to Know, began to consider the possibilities of bringing a similar vibe to the public at large, and providing a greater service to the local music scene at the same time. He approached Feuerman, an attorney and friend, to discuss the possibility of building a new venue that would include indoor and outdoor stages along with a large amphitheater.
Feuerman shared the vision and immediately decided he wanted to contribute more than legal advice, and partnered up with Irion on the spot.“The next thing we decided on was putting in a microbrewery,” Feuerman tells me. “Because we knew the venue alone wouldn’t be able to support itself.”
Irion owned a restaurant in Taos Ski Valley at the time and as luck would have it, one of his employees was a brewer. The partnership expanded to include brewer extraordinaire, Jayson Wylie.
“The only thing missing was the building itself,” says Feuerman. “But that too came together flawlessly.
“We had a shared vision of the venue being in a hangar or a Quonset Hut, something industrial that would mimic the vibe of the defunct warehouse, which had been home to such a cool scene,” he says. “So we started interviewing builders and contractors.”
One of the people they talked to was Peter Kolshorn who told them he’d always had a dream of doing a bar and brewery in a Quonset Hut. They now had a fourth partner and all they needed was property to build on.
Five years later, in the summer of 2012, Taos Mesa Brewing opened its doors to a curious public. They haven’t closed for more than a day since.
In the desert west of Taos, a three-minute drive from the mythical Blinking Light, the Taos Mesa Brewery complex was built on five acres across U.S. 64 from the airport. The site includes the brewery, a bar, an indoor music venue, two outdoor stages and a beer garden.
The new downtown location has many similarities design-wise to the Mothership; buffed concrete bars inlaid with mosaics of broken glass, salvaged materials (the aforementioned converted shipping container) and ironwork by genius steelworker, Christina Sporrong, whose giant crane stands sentinel to the brewery out on the mesa.
The new location called for yet another new addition to the working partnership. “Look, once a business starts growing and expanding, it takes more than a few dreamers at the helm,” Feuerman says. While we ate our lunch, he’d introduced me to the newest member of the team, Christopher Mixson.
Mixson’s corporate background solidifies the management base, and brings a pragmatic and practical hand to bear. The place had filled up completely by the time we finished our lunch. By design, the Tap Room is not just a “mini-me” version of the Mothership.
“We’ve tried to import some of the architectural and community vibe from the Mothership, albeit blended with the territorial feel of the Historic District,” Mixson says. “But our primary focus has been to provide Taos with a uniquely upscale artisanal tap room and restaurant serving the widest selection of excellent, locally crafted brews sure to satisfy the most discriminating of beer connoisseurs.”
Mixson mentions the Tap Room’s emphasis on food that sources local ingredients, organic grains and high-quality cheeses. “We’re fortunate to have the highly respect local chef, Noah Pettus—formerly of the acclaimed Aqua in San Francisco and the former owner and chef at Aceq in Arroyo Seco—to pilot our menu and manage our kitchen.
“Our focus on local sourcing extends to the beer we’re crafting as Taos Mesa Brewing is working in partnership with local farmers to reintroduce barley and other crop production to the community as part of an effort to realize a truly Taos, high-quality ‘grain to glass’ beer we hope to introduce soon.”
If the Mothership is any indication, the TMB Taos Tap Room will be one of the hottest spots in town for years to come.
Taos Mesa Brewing Taos Tap Room
201 Paseo del Pueblo Sur., Taos
TAOS MAGAZINE | OCTOBER 2016