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Birthday beer: Turtle Mountain releases double India pale lager to mark 22nd anniversary

Turtle Mountain Brewing Co. is celebrating 22 years of operation with the release of its Splittin’ Aces Double IPL on Friday, March 19. (Courtesy of Turtle Mountain Brewing Co.)

Turtle Mountain Brewery Co. has looked forward to the day it could commemorate another anniversary.

Last year, its plans to celebrate 21 years of operation were derailed due to the pandemic. Now, the light at the end of the tunnel has gotten brighter, and the current health order allows for indoor and outdoor seating at limited capacity. Turtle Mountain is taking full advantage of being able to say ‘Cheers!’ to another year.

It is commemorating 22 years with the release of its Splittin’ Aces Double IPL on Friday, March 19.

The double India pale lager will be available on tap until it runs out at the brewery’s location at 905 36th Place SE in Rio Rancho. New Turtle Mountain merchandise, including hats, also will be sold.

“Since we had all this time, we figured we might as well make a lager,” head brewer David Pacheco said. “So that’s what we did. We did a double IPL. It’s a pretty unique style in that, like generally, IPAs just get cycled out very quickly, but with IPLs, you definitely want to take your time to make sure any sulfuric notes given off from your lager yeast can kind of settle out. And then your lager yeast actually gives you a little bit better, more of a blank slate for your malt and your hops to kind of come through when you drink.”

Pacheco used three kinds of hops to create Splittin’ Aces.

“We started off with some Columbus and Cascade and Azacca in the boil, which kind of melds real nicely,” Pacheco said. “Our Columbus gives us a little bit of a more piney resonance and pungent kind of flavor, where Cascade is more of a tropical kind of passionfruit hop that really gained its prominence in the ’80s and is still every bit as good of a hop as it was back then. And then Azacca is a fairly new U.S. strain, which gives you a lot of tropical notes, like most of the other American hops. But you can also kind of get some orchard fruits, like apples and pears, in there. So, we definitely have a very interesting kind of mosaic, if you will, of flavors in this beer.”

An anniversary outdoor patio barbecue is planned for March 28.

The brewery will be serving tri-tip ribs that have been smoked on site and seasoned with its special Turtle Mountain rub, as well as smoked sausage. Side offerings include potato salad and possibly Badger beans, named after sous chef Zach Van Dyke, who goes by the nickname.

The brewery opened on March 22, 1999, in Rio Rancho. It has become a staple in the community and loyal patrons flocked to support their beloved establishment during the pandemic shutdowns.

Turtle Mountain also qualified for state and county grants, and federal low-interest loans that helped the brewery stay afloat and maintain employment for about 40 workers.

“When we were only able to do takeout and delivery, they were coming in droves,” owner Nico Ortiz said. “Our sales were obviously significantly down. But the gratuities that people were leaving were stupendous. Like, you know, there were some of the servers and bartenders who were manning the to-go stations were making more money during the shutdown than they were when we were opening at 100% occupancy because people were super-generous in their giving and they were super-supportive. … The support was huge, and I can’t say enough how grateful we are for the people who live in the area and the Turtle patrons who supported us throughout the year.”

Turtle Mountain will soon have more festivities with the opening of its new taproom, tentatively scheduled for July.

The taproom, in the Enchanted Hills neighborhood, is 7,400 square feet and has a 4,000-square-foot patio.

It will have a full restaurant with an expanded menu that what is currently offered at the brewery’s original location.

“(We) and then all the other fellow breweries that survived last year, you know, we are certainly a lot tougher of a bunch and, at 22 years, we’re starting to get long in the tooth, but we’re happy, and I think we’re better than ever,” Ortiz said.

He continued, “You know, we’re on the cusp of opening up our new place, hopefully in July of this year. So, you know, where some people were retrenching, we’re actually expanding. We’re emerging from this bigger, better, stronger.”

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