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Pushing back: 377 Brewery going strong despite pandemic, burglaries

The Valencia Tap Room by The 377 Brewery has built a large deck patio area for its customers in Los Lunas. (Courtesy of Clifford Sandoval)

The pandemic has hit businesses hard, including the brewing industry.

To add insult to injury, The 377 Brewery was burglarized twice in two days. Thieves took all the brewery’s iPads, its point-of-sale systems, cash and owner Clifford Sandoval’s tools. They also stole the brewery’s van twice. The van was used in other burglaries in the area, including a nearby Border Patrol station and Homeland Security office, according to Sandoval. The second time it was stolen it was found idling in the middle of the road. The van, which was a total loss, was donated to Joy Junction. Sandoval is looking for another vehicle to use to transport product to and from its The Valencia Tap Room by The 377 Brewery in Los Lunas.

Sandoval continues to find the silver lining and never closed the brewery, which offers growlers and bottled product to go or selections on tap for patio patrons.

“Regardless, we’ll keep going,” he said.” Every time you push, us we push back harder.”

Instead of slowing down, The 377 Brewery expanded its space as well as its Los Lunas location by extending patio areas where patrons can enjoy their favorite The 377 Brewery beers or sours. The Albuquerque location has 12 taps, and the Los Lunas location has slightly fewer. Guests can choose from lager, IPAs, quads, sour offerings and more. The brewery’s award-winning Oktoberfest will available in about a month and a half. This year, the Oktoberfest has a new spin.

“This Oktoberfest, we put it in several different barrels,” Sandoval said. “We have one in a brandy barrel; we have it in a bourbon barrel; we have it in a whiskey barrel, and we have it in a champagne barrel; we have it in a wine barrels. This year, we brewed even earlier, and it’s just probably the best one we’ve ever had.”

The lager and the IPA are popular at the brewery, but Sandoval says patrons are increasingly buying higher-alcohol beers.

“People come by buying bottles of the Belgian quad, which is about 13%, or the Cream Ale Stout, which is at 9%,” he said. “They’re just buying a lot, and that really surprised me, so I don’t know if they’re just taking it home and getting twisted, dealing with life or whatever. And actually, Los Lunas is like that a lot. We thought it would be a lighter-beer territory, which it is, but they sure buy a lot of the heavy-octane stuff.”

The 377 Brewery’s sours also draw customers in. Head brewer Lyna Waggoner has traveled abroad to places such as Bavaria and Belgium to perfect her craft.

The 377 Brewery has extended its patio seating to accommodate hungry and thirsty patrons. (Courtesy of Clifford Sandoval)

“Every time she goes, she goes on these little tours where she gets to hang out at these old breweries and learn the old stuff,” Sandoval said. “We have a spontaneous sour program. Nobody has one other than Rowley (Farmhouse Ales) in Santa Fe, but we’re the only two in New Mexico.”

Waggoner is somewhat of a mad scientist when it comes to brewing.

“She’s kind of crazy about stuff like that,” Sandoval said. “She picked a lot of that up when she was in Belgium. She brings a lot to the table. Lyna is just a great brewer. She is a hard worker, dedicated, crazy, psychotic about brewing. She has a biology-chemistry background, so it’s her passion.”

Albuquerque patrons also can order from a full food menu.

“We sell a ton of fish and chips,” Sandoval said. “We sell a lot of wings, a lot of fish and chips, a lot of burgers, which is kind of all over the board, but that’s the three heavy hitters. … We just have a really good fish and chips. We do our own batter and mix it down with our own beer.”

There is plenty for vegetarians and some offerings for gluten-free diets. The brewery has some impressive salads and a ginger beer.

“We have the quesadillas that are for vegetarians too,” Sandoval said. “There’s a lot of different things we can do for vegetarians. And then if you’re having issues with celiac (disease) or things like that, the ginger beer is 100% organic. (It is made with) fresh crushed ginger and lime and sugarcane sugar, and we mix it with a sour. People just love that mix.”

Los Lunas guests will be able to order food in a few weeks. The village has been supportive of the taproom since it opened in April.

“I made it like their own place,” Sandoval said. “It feels like you’re going into your own living room, and they love that. Country folks are different. They’re just different down here. Once they like you, they love you. … It worked out good.”

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