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Lighten up: Differential Brewing offers alternatives to heavy beers, with a casual vibe

Differential Brewing Co. is on the lighter end of the beer spectrum.

Its signature beers are light, refreshing and easy to drink.

Owner Anthony Hanson recently opened Differential Brewing Co. It is a small, locally owned brewery dedicated to making easy-drinking craft beers. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“You know the old saying, ‘Do what you love and you do it better’?” asked Anthony Hanson, the brewery’s owner. “I am not the biggest hop head in the world. I’m not drink-shaming anyone. IPA totally has its place, but I am more of a lower-alcohol, lower-hops, lower-bitterness kind of guy.”

Hanson has been a homebrewer off and on for more than 15 years and worked at Quarters Discount Liquors on Yale for more than 10 years.

“I got to see firsthand what customers buy, and more importantly, I got to see what this neighborhood buys, being right down the street from it,” Hanson said. “I think there is an underserved market for lighter, easier-drinking style beers. A lot of people in craft beers are about doing something completely different than the mainstream. I think it’s more about local options and buying and supporting local, and if we’re not supporting the people that are drinking the lighter-style beers, we’re really doing a disservice in that sense.”

Differential offers six signature beer styles and has been rotating through four beers regularly since it opened in mid-February.

“Our flagship and most identifiable is our Blue Corn Cream Ale, made with local blue corn,” Hanson said. “I really wanted to highlight New Mexico ingredients that weren’t green chile, and we have so many great ingredients here from Native American sources that aren’t utilized a lot, or enough, I should say. So I picked a style of beer that focuses really heavily on corn, which is cream ale, and I just really highlighted blue corn in it. It comes out slightly purple, and it’s really easy to drink, also fairly low in alcohol and hops. The other ones we’re doing pretty heavily right now is a dark lager, which is kind of in the vein of Negra Modelo, a light, easy-drinking wheat ale and an extra-pale ale which is even lighter than a regular pale ale. It’s the complete polar opposite of an IPA.”

Offerings also include local wine, niche bottled beers and guest taps from Bosque Brewing Co., La Cumbre Brewing Co. and, soon, Steel Bender Brewyard.

There are a lot of roles to take on when opening a new business, and Hanson felt his skills were better used running the taproom and keeping everything functional. He relies on brewer Peter Moore to run the brewhouse with the help of assistant brewer Nick Tacket. Half of the beer recipes used are Hanson’s, and the other half are Moore’s. The brewery has a three-barrel system that produces about 100 gallons and recently ordered more fermenters.

The old gas station-turned-brewery has a laid-back, drink-in-your-garage kind of feel. The atmosphere is unpretentious, with a large backyard area that houses food trucks on busy nights and will soon offer bocce ball, cornhole and music that complements the brewery’s mellow vibe.

“It needed a lot of work, and it was either, we might have to tear it down and replace it with something else or see if we can keep the building and have it become something unique and interesting,” Hanson said. “As best as I can tell, it’s from the early ’50s. It’s an old gas station. It’s very iconic construction. So I really wanted to keep the aesthetic of that alive, and it’s such a unique piece of architecture for this part of the city. It would be a shame to get rid of it.”

Differential is a block from Central New Mexico Community College’s main campus and near the University of New Mexico’s football stadium and basketball arena, as well as Isotopes Park. Hanson said he has received a lot of support and positive feedback from the neighborhood.

“Working at the Quarters for the last decade-plus over there, I really knew the neighborhood well,” Hanson said. “I have a really strong connection with the neighborhood. I lived here 20-plus years, worked in it another 10, and I know the people well and they know me, and I just felt a good pub was severely lacking in this neighborhood. There’s not a lot of options around here exactly for a small communal gathering kind of place.”

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