Turtle Mountain Brewing Co. has been a staple in Rio Rancho for 21 years. Soon it will have representation in both the north and south areas of the city.
A new taproom, expected to open sometime next year, is in the Enchanted Hills area of Rio Rancho. It will serve the northern part of the city and surrounding areas.
“There’s like 7,000 houses in Enchanted Hills,” Nico Ortiz said. “It’s a big chunk of Rio Rancho’s populace. You also pull from Bernalillo, you pull from Placitas, you pull from Santa Ana and the pueblos around there.”
North Rio Rancho residents who make the trip to Turtle Mountain’s current location in south Rio Rancho are excited about having a taproom closer to home, Ortiz said. The taproom also will fill the gap of an underserved market.
“From a sit-down perspective, where you can go to get a beer or a glass of wine, pretty much Chili’s is, like, the only thing out there, and there’s so many people,” Ortiz said. “It’s completely underserved. Albuquerque doesn’t have that many areas of town that are underserved like this one, is so it was kind of a no-brainer.”
Ortiz is aware of disappointed Albuquerque residents who were hoping to have a Turtle Mountain taproom east of the Rio Grande, but available locations were not ideal.
“I couldn’t find a place across the river that had good parking, a patio,” Ortiz said. When I started looking, a patio was not as required as it is right now. The governor changed it to 25% indoor, but nowadays a patio is even more critical in case this ever happens again and we’re back to outdoor sitting. I was looking for a place with that had plenty of parking, and outdoor patio with lease rates that weren’t ridiculous, and I could not find anything in Albuquerque that would fit the bill, but I managed to find all three of those in the space in Rio Rancho.”
Ortiz said that Turtle Mountain has developed name recognition in Rio Rancho and that with 100,000 residents in the city, there is plenty of room for another Turtle Mountain without “cannibalizing” his business. He said the city of Rio Rancho has supported his decision to keep his business in the city.
“The response from people living out there, as well as the powers that be in the city, has been really positive,” Ortiz said. “The city really wants to spur development on their side of the border. They’re trying to stem the tide of gross receipts taxes that are going to Bernalillo and Santa Ana and not staying in Rio Rancho.”
The new taproom space is just under 4,500 square feet and has a 1,400-square-foot patio. Ortiz is in the layout stages right now.
“It sounds like an awful lot of space, but when you start putting in bathrooms and you start putting in coolers for the bar and you start putting in walk-in coolers and freezers for the kitchen and prep areas, it goes pretty quick,” Ortiz said. “The menu will be contingent on just how much kitchen we can get in there. … We’ll see how much we’re able to do, because we have to factor in 125 seats or something like that to make it economically worthwhile.”
Ortiz will be bringing over the existing menu from the brewery and incorporate some menu items from his now-closed restaurant Timbuctu Bistro, in the Rio Rancho Mariposa subdivision. The menu included a sizzling fajita plate and specialty tacos. Ortiz is also considering having Saturday and Sunday brunch. He said breakfast offerings in north Rio Rancho are nonexistent and residents have to travel to Bernalillo for the closest offerings.
“We had a really good menu up there so I think we’re going to try to integrate some of the menu items from the Mariposa restaurant,” he said. “It was slightly higher-end fare but really tasty. People from Enchanted Hills and north Rio Rancho remember Mariposa, and they remember the kinds of things we had on the menu, so I think as a nod to them and not to make the experience exactly the same, I think we’re going to have some unique menu items at the new place that you can’t get at the original place.”
The new location will feature a bar and 18 taps, with about 12 for house beers and six guest taps.
“Even though I don’t know when we will be able to sit at a bar again, I’m going to be putting in a bar, because I like bars,” Ortiz said. “And for whatever time in the future we’re allowed to sit back down, I’d like to factor it in. Obviously, the interior of the layout is certainly going to be designed with COVID restrictions in mind, in case we have to go through this mess again.”