Three Rivers to show its "spirit" with new lounge
“We don’t want this to be a bar,” said co-owner Bob Beckley. “We’ll be bringing in specialty meats and offer high-end food platters, but you can also order anything from our other restaurants.”
FARMINGTON — Three Rivers Brewing Company is now producing a line of craft distilled liquors in its newly-installed on-site distillery, and is preparing to open a new drinking and eating establishment next to the Three Rivers Pizzeria in late January or early February.
The Three Rivers Brewstillery Lounge, said co-owner John Silva, will offer an upscale gathering and drinking venue that has not been available locally.
“We’re creating more of a lounge, where you can come in and socialize without a lot of rowdiness,” said Silva.
In addition to liquors such as vodka, rum and gin produced on-site, wine and specialty bottled beers that are hard to find elsewhere in the county will be available.
Silva said the lounge will offer a bloody Mary bar on Sundays, so customers can make their own drinks. Three Rivers non-alcoholic drinks such as ginger beer and “mocktails,” which are non-alcoholic specialty drinks, will also be offered.
Silva, a self-professed history-buff, said he enjoyed decorating the wood-hewn lounge with hand-made tables made from old doors, 1945 ammunition boxes, and oak pallets.
“Everyone can have regular tables, but Three Rivers is not a regular place,” he said.
Old photos from the prohibition era decorate the walls, giving the lounge a “speak-easy” feel.
To top off the eclectic décor, 500 cast-iron model cars are on display in several glass cases, and customers will be able to purchase and smoke cigars on the outside patio.
Bob Beckley, co-owner, said Three Rivers has about half a million dollars tied up in the distillery project.
“We don’t want this to be a bar,” he said. “We’ll be bringing in specialty meats and offer high-end food platters, but you can also order anything from our other restaurants.”
Earlier this month, Brandon Beard, brewer and lead distiller for Three Rivers, described the whisky-making distilling process.
“It basically all starts with weak, eight-percent-alcohol beer without the hops that we call a whisky wash,” he said, pointing to a large 150-gallon barrel holding a yeasty, fermenting liquid.
“The beer goes through the still at 180 degrees, which turns it into vapor. The vapor goes into a condenser, is cooled, and drips out as 80 percent alcohol. Water is then added to dilute the whisky to 40 percent.”
Beard added that the alcohol in the distilled liquors is ethanol. Methanol, which is the type of alcohol most people associate with blindness or even death in high doses, is removed.
Other types of liquor, such as rum, is fermented from different substances such as molasses, Beard said. The barrel is left open during fermenting so natural yeasts that are in the air will mix with it.
“A lot of people don’t know that all liquor starts out basically as low-alcohol beer,” he said. “Anything that can be fermented can be distilled.”
It takes 150 gallons of the beer wash to yield 30 gallons of spirit, Beard said.
Beckley said the process to be able to open the distillery was complicated.
“There was red tape at every corner, and we had to go through so many city and state regulations and codes,” he said. “It’s a sad thing, because there’d be a lot more distilleries if there wasn’t so much red tape. Unfortunately, all Americans lose because there are so many hoops to jump through.”
Beckley hopes the Three Rivers distillery will become a model for the industry, and will help pave the way for other small brewers who want to branch out to this type of business.
Matt Simonds is with the New Mexico Distiller Guild and is also owner of Broken Trail Spirits and Brew in Albuquerque.
Simonds said he’s happy that the Three Rivers distillery has gotten off the ground.
“It’s exciting to see some of the breweries in the state branching out, because they bring a lot of cool things to the table,” he said, adding that although the guild has been hearing rumors of more distilleries popping up state-wide, Three Rivers is one of the only ones to actually follow through with their plans, making it the eighth distillery in the state.
“I think the general trend is that we’ll see a pretty big increase in distilleries in the next few years,” he said. “The brewing market has been saturated, so it’s the next step. It’s an un-tapped market at this point.”
Beard said hundreds of bottles of vodka, whisky, spiced rum and gin have been produced, which will be ready for sale as soon as the distillery opens. The cost per bottle, Beard said, will be comparable to prices in other stores, $18 to $30 per bottle, depending on the type of liquor and its age.
He said the focus will be on small batches of craft liquor, with added herbs and spices to bring nuances to the liquor.
“We’re not trying to become Jack Daniels,” he said. “We’re bringing something to the table that the big guys can’t do.”
Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.