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Barkeep, I’ll have another (brewpub)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Seems you can’t swing a bag of hops without hitting a brewpub or tasting room these days. The Albuquerque beer scene, a growth industry if ever there was one, is about to get a new player.

Adding to the flow of suds is Lava Rock Brewing Co., a new taproom/eatery and eventual brewery, whose owners are pushing for a grand opening next Friday at 2220 Unser Blvd. NW.

The new business will occupy nearly 6,000 square feet at the Unser Shops and Pads, which has Walgreens as its anchor tenant. It’s also close to several established and new residential developments like Del Webb Mirehaven, where there is a dearth of purveyors to slake the thirst of area residents, according to one of Lava’s owners.

“It’s an untapped market” for a new beer seller, said managing member Bill Walters, referring to the promising demographics that led to his investment with partners Onesimo Vigil and Mark Cordova.


Lava Rock Brewing Co.owner Bill Walters at the new West Side microbrewery. ADOLPHE PIERRE-LOUIS/JOURNAL

“It’s a high-traffic area,” said Walters, who placed the cost to launch the business at $500,000. While he’s targeting folks from the local area, he hopes to cast a wider net. “As long as the beer is good and it’s quality, people come from anywhere,” he said. “I’m getting a bunch of phone calls from people each day asking, ‘When are you gonna open?'” said Walters.

Initially, Lava Rock will have other local beers on tap until the business gets approved and licensed to market its own line of microbrews made on the premises. Large tanks, kettles and fermenters already are installed and ready for production under the direction of head brewer Aaron Walters, Bill’s son.


Lava Rock Brewing Co. head brewer Aaron Walters gets ready for next week\’s grand opening. (ADOLPHE PIERRE-LOUIS/JOURNAL)

Aaron Walters is creating unique flavor profiles for the beer line, which will include ales, lagers, stouts and a sour beer. Bill Walters describes the latter as one of the current hottest cold drinks.

The brewing side of the operation will comprise about one-fourth of the building’s footprint.

A full kitchen has two dozen items on the menu. Expect several kinds of burgers, chicken wings, sandwiches, chicken and waffles, green chile nachos, chips and salsa.

Lava Rock, which will employ about 30 staff members, has seating for 150 customers inside and 80 on the patio.

Albuquerque boasts a huge roster of local breweries, pubs, craft beer halls and taprooms.

For the second year in a row, Albuquerque has made Travelocity’s Top 10 list of “Beer Destinations” for craft-beer tourism.

Travelocity began keeping a beer tourism index in 2016 to list the top 300 markets in the country for craft beers and for a new trend called “Beercations.” In both 2016 and 2017, Albuquerque rang in at No. 10.

According to a report from Cushman & Wakefield, a national commercial real estate firm, the number of breweries in New Mexico has more than doubled since 2011, to 57 in 2016. In the past year, the number has grown by 26 percent.