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Finishing touches being put on Lauter Haus Brewing Company

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FARMINGTON — As a first-time business owner, Brandon Beard knows that opening his inaugural venture is a once-in-a-lifetime deal. That's why he's so determined to get it right.

With that thought in mind, Beard won't throw open the doors at the Lauter Haus Brewing Company at 1806 E. 20th St. until he is confident he's got the operation ready to hum. As he and his construction crew complete the build-out this week — most notably, a 26-foot bar that has been framed but not topped — Beard finds himself interrupted several times a day by people walking through the doors or calling on the phone, asking when the brewery will start welcoming customers.

Everyone gets the same answer — by the end of October. If you try to pin him down beyond that, Beard won't take the bait.

"We're close — we're really, really close," Beard said smiling while leading a visitor on a tour of the business on Oct. 8 and explaining that he plans to start training his staff of 10 employees on Oct. 14.

"We want to make sure it's done right the first time," he said, adding that he still expects some flaws in the operation to become apparent over the first few months. He promised those will be addressed promptly.

"If everything runs perfectly smooth, I'll be shocked," he said. "That's the way things work."

Beard may be running his own business for the first time, but he is no stranger to the brewing industry, having spent the last 15 years working at downtown's Three Rivers Brewery, where he was the head brewer for the last decade. It was almost exactly a year ago — in November 2018 — that he and a group of partners formed a partnership with the aim of opening their own brewery, and in less than a year, that idea has become a reality.

That is a breakneck pace for most new businesses — especially one with the complicated hardware, electrical and plumbing demands of a brewery — but it hasn't gone as quickly as Beard envisioned. He originally planned to be open by late summer, but the 35-day shutdown of the federal government that took place late last year and early this year derailed those hopes, delaying federal approval of the Lauter Haus licensing.

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Beard was a little disappointed by that, but he's more concerned about avoiding major snafus that alienate customers.

"I'm worried about the consumer more than I am myself," he said. "I'm worried if I'm making them happy. If you don't like a beer, tell me why, and I'll examine that. I don't take things personally. It helps me figure out what I can do to make it better. I'm more concerned about making people happy than I am about any other thing."

Lauter Haus will feature a seven-barrel system, though Beard said the 10,000-square-foot building in which the brewery operates leaves plenty of room for expansion. It will open with eight beer styles, a number he hopes to ramp up quickly.

While a pair of glass doors flanked by towering columbine and centennial hops plants front the business' East 20th Street location, the public entrance to the brewery will be on the east side, adjacent to the parking lot. Upon entering the building, customers will encounter a retail station on their left — where Lauter Haus clothing and glassware will be offered for sale — and an arcade on their right, where approximately a dozen vintage pinball and video game machines will be positioned. Straight ahead is the bar, complete with two sets of taps to hasten the filling of orders, and three 65-inch flat-screen TVs. Seven more TVs will be scattered around the building.

That's only the beginning. The layout features four cornhole courts with the cornhole boards themselves decorated with the logos of local business sponsors. Beard plans to start the San Juan Cornhole League in January, with league play taking place on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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On the far side of the arcade will be several dart boards adjacent to a second door that leads to a partially covered, fenced-in patio. Beard said that space will feature a fire pit that customers can huddle by as cold weather sets in, and he hopes to add a fireplace next year.

Out the doors on the building's west side, Beard hopes to construct a second, non-smoking patio, but that project remains on his wish list for next year.

Seating throughout the brewery will consist of a mix of options. There will be picnic tables and benches, Adirondack chairs, custom-made loveseats made out of oil drums and tables made from large, wooden electrical wire spools salvaged from Border States Electric. The perimeter of the cornhole courts will be lined with cinderblock-and-wood-beam benches assembled by Beard's crew.

The mismatched nature of all those furnishings is designed to give Lauter Haus a funky, informal and relaxed atmosphere, he said.

"Our goal is to make it feel like you're sitting on somebody's patio," he said. "We don't want squared-off tables and squared-off chairs. We want to make it fun."

That philosophy extends even into the men's room, which features urinals constructed from recycled beer kegs.

Beard plans to offer live music eventually, although not until the brewery's "honeymoon period," as he puts it, is over. Plans call for the purchase of a removable stage, which will be assembled and disassembled as needed in the cornhole courts for shows.

The brewery will not serve food, but Beard has made arrangements with the operators of three food trucks — Silver Star BBQ, Primal Swine and Red Mountain Range — to set up shop at the front of the building. The fare will range from traditional barbecue, noodle dishes and Asian-inspired pork to soups, salads and tacos. Customers will need to go outside to order their food from the trucks, but their food will be served to them inside the brewery, he said.

Patrons also are welcome to bring other take-out food into the brewery, Beard said. The brewery will offer popcorn and pretzels or peanuts.

On the beverage side, Lauter Haus will serve wine from Ruidoso's Noisy Water Winery, and a soft drink vending machine will be available. Beard said he has chosen to avoid serving soft drinks at the bar to reduce service time.

Of course, the focus at Lauter Haus will be on the beer itself. Beard said all the bartenders will undergo training in the Cicerone Certification Program, which is designed to educate beer professionals and help them elevate the beer experience for customers. Beard likens that status to being a wine sommelier, and he wants his staff members to be able to recommend beer to customers based on their professed likes and dislikes.

Beard expects Lauter Haus' IPA and helles beer styles to be very popular, possibly leading to shortages of those beers at times. If demand warrants, he said, the brewing operation will add new equipment to increase its capacity.

To help avoid those shortages, he said, Lauter Haus will not be filling growlers during the honeymoon period, part of a plan to maintain a high-quality experience for in-house customers. And when the brewery does begin filling orders for off-premises consumption, it will not offer traditional glass containers, but environmentally friendly stainless-steel, insulated "crowlers" in the shape of a can.

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All of those elements — down to the distinctive shape of the brewery's logo glassware — are designed to maximize the customer's experience, Beard said. He wants to avoid a generic atmosphere and give local residents a variety of entertainment options.

"Farmington doesn't have a whole to do in terms of going out at night," he said. "We're going to try to give people something to do."

Beard acknowledged the experience of opening a new business has been every bit as stressful as he was warned it would be. But with preparations entering the home stretch, he said he was able to take his first day off in several months last weekend, and he looks forward to showing off what he and his partners have planned for customers.

"I hope Farmington will be responsive to this," Beard said. "I don't need to be a millionaire. I just want to make people happy with a good libations and a good place to have good libations."

Lauter Haus will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Call 505-326-2337 or visit lauterbrew.com.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610, or via email at measterling@daily-times.com.

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