The local brewery scene is bustling, but when Turtle Mountain Brewing Co. opened two decades ago, that was not the case.
Owner Nico Ortiz found a way to turn his small brewery, one of a few in the state, into a booming business.
“I think 20 years old, as far as an active, thriving, vibrant restaurant brewery, we are further getting away from our next-closest competitor as far as actually being what I consider to be the classic term of brewpub, which is a brewery restaurant, a restaurant that serves food that brews its beer on-site,” Ortiz said. “It’s sort of nice to be able to say we withstood the test of time. Twenty years in this business is enormous. How many restaurants in Albuquerque have been around 20 years?”
The brewery is celebrating with a commemorative beer and pulling some special beers from its archives.
“We’ll have our anniversary beer,” Turtle Mountain head brewer Mick Hahn said. “It’s going to be a 9.9 percent steinbock. We heated up hot lava rocks that I collected off the mesa, heated them over a flame and incorporated them into the boil to give this beer a rich caramelization from the direct heat of 400- to 500-degree stones being added to it.”
The 20th anniversary beer is named after the Roman numerals for 20, or XX.
“It’s Doppel Equis Steinator Steinbock,” Hahn said. “Since it’s a German originated style we threw the ‘doppel’ in there. … We threw the ‘stein’ in there to reference the stones that we used for it. It is a big name; it’s a big beer; it’s a big celebration, so we feel it all works pretty well.”
Hahn also will have at least a dozen archived beers from past years, with the oldest being 2½ years old. The archived beers include Depravity Barleywine, which came out in 2016, and Toxic Masculinity Brut IPA and Table Manners Session IPA from last year’s experimental India pale ale series.
The centerpiece of the 20th celebration is the 20th Anniversary Bock ‘n’ Ale Yeah! celebration on March 22. The event features food and three fills of choice. The event is sold out.
For patrons who were unable to get tickets for Bock ‘n’ Ale Yeah! the St. Patrick’s Day celebration will have plenty of corned beef and cabbage and more.
“We just started brining 157 pounds of corned beef,” Ortiz said. “We (beer) brine it ourselves. We have Snakedriver Irish Dry Stout. We do a Snakedriver Irish Stout stew, and then we do shepherd’s pie, along with the corned beef and cabbage so we do the full on St. Patrick’s menu.”
After 20 years in the same location, Ortiz has plans to expand with a new taproom. He has his eye on the east side of the river in Albuquerque and is interested in a location in the Enchanted Hills neighborhood in Rio Rancho.
“Mick and I have talked about expanding Turtle’s presence into Albuquerque, because we’re sort of hidden over here on the West Side, to get some presence across the river so we can get a little more name recognition,” Ortiz said. “… I’m also sniffing around in Enchanted Hills. … We have a fair amount of Enchanted Hills people that currently come to Turtle. I wouldn’t mind providing them an opportunity closer to home, because I know we’d get more business if they didn’t have to drive all the way through Rio Rancho on (N.M.) 528.”