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Turtle Mountain Brewing marks anniversary, looks to expand

Rio Rancho’s Turtle Mountain Brewing Company is not only growing a year older, but it is soon growing a taproom bigger.

Although the location for a second taproom has not been decided, owner Nico Ortiz has a few areas in Albuquerque in mind.

“We’ve looked at a variety of spots from the far Heights to the Tramway corridor,” he said. “It’s all about the spaces available, whether they’re attractively priced and located near a lot of rooftops. I’m hoping to make an announcement this summer as to where we are going to be. It would be nice to expand our presence.”

Turtle Mountain, which celebrates its 19th anniversary this month, has no room for expansion at its current Rio Rancho location.

“Rio Rancho has added 40,000 people since we opened in ’99,” Ortiz said. “The amount of competition here, restaurant- and brewery-wise, is low. It is a double-edged sword. On one side, there is not a lot of competition and a steady stream of regulars, and the other side is it hampers our growth. We are kind of maxed out with what we can do.”

Taproom planning aside, Turtle Mountain is getting ready for its annual St. Patrick’s Day bash on March 17. The event will feature Snakedriver Irish Dry Stout, corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie and Irish beef stew. In commemoration of its 19th anniversary, Turtle Mountain will feature daily beer-paired specials highlighting its new menu offerings from March 18 through March 25. The food pairings will vary slightly but will be part of a special 19th Anniversary Brewmasters Dinner on March 22.

Pairings begin on March 18 with a charcuterie platter called Turtle Tidbits. It will be paired with Can’t Catch Me Copper Lager, a lightly toasted lager showcasing the floral and earthy German Hallertau hops. Santa Rosa fish tacos featuring cod fillets drizzled with pineapple habanero sauce will be paired with Wooden Teeth American Lager on March 19. Pork belly skewers paired with Hopshell India Pale Ale will be the March 20 feature. The IPA has tropical fruit, juicy citrus and rich floral aroma, according to Turtle Mountain’s website. On March 21, the Ruidoso ribs, slow-roasted pork ribs, will be paired with 19th Anniversary Amnesia Ale.

“It’s the first anniversary beer that (the original brewers) brewed,” Head brewer Mick Hahn said. “They called it Amnesia. It’s a hoppy, caramely, red ale.”

The pairings on March 23-25 feature Turtle Mountain’s new pizza offerings: Pizza Classico, Pizza Alamosa, and the Miah-T Pizza, which is named after a kitchen staffer. Employees who have been with Turtle Mountain for 10 years can ask that their name be put on the menu, Ortiz said.

In addition to making beers for the anniversary pairings, Hahn has created the Evolutionary IPA series. The first in the series, Thunder Mouse, is brewed with El Dorado, Ekuanot, and Chinook hops. It has a light caramel base and is kind of juicy, with good pine notes to it as well. Patrons went through Thunder Mouse quickly, but it will be replaced with the second in the series, Time Management, which is brewed with Comet, Columbus, and Mosaic hops. It is a lighter IPA than Thunder Mouse, but it packs plenty of a flavor punch. By the end of March, guests will see the third in the series, Total Malarkey, on tap. This IPA is easier on the palate than most since it is has zero IBU. The International Bitterness Units scale, referred to as IBU, is a gauge of a beer’s bitterness.

“It’s a trend we’re starting to see in the market,” Hahn said of zero-IBU IPAs. “It’s a break from IPAs that people have been seeing, because it doesn’t have that bitterness. … You still get a lot of the same flavor and aromas, but not that stringent bitterness that bites your tongue.”