Alibi V.23 No.37 • Sept 11-17, 2014 

Food News

Democracy by the Pint

New alehouse concept puts the people in charge of the pivo

Patrick Johnson (left) and Zach Gould of the Ale Republic.
Patrick Johnson (left) and Zach Gould of the Ale Republic.
Ty Bannerman

Between Mesopotamia and McMenamins, beer culture on the planet has flourished as an endless liquid feast, as vital to us as cereal or bread, and equally as old a practice. We’ve worshipped it, written ancient slow jams about it, used it as a form of currency and elevated our social standing in the community by skillfully brewing it. Only that slight distraction called Prohibition forced the meandering hoppy stream of human history underground, and not for long. We’re headlong into a revival of brewing in small batches to meet the evolving palate of beer enthusiasts. A local beer upstart called Ale Republic is riding the crest of that sudsy wave with a fresh idea they’ve successfully funded via a Kickstarter campaign. You might have even seen members of the Ale Republic team around town, triumphantly waving their emblem: a crimson logo of two Book of Kells-looking conjoined birds in profile, emblazoned on a yellow flag, as a means to rally people to their cause. The effect is quite grand, and so are the plans for the future of the Ale Republic.

In a tiny basement in Albuquerque, the revolution has been brewing for several years. Ale Republic was conceived by Patrick Johnson, Dylan Wood, Adrian Giombolini and Zach Gould, founders and members of the long-running Beer Underground, a monthly gathering of beer enthusiasts. Every meeting features a tasting of New Mexico beers, as well as some of Johnson’s specialty brews. The Ale Republic campaign aims to go beyond Beer Underground to incorporate a larger vision.

“I lived in France for a year and joined a weekly beer club,” Patrick Johnson, a UNM graduate student, said. “It wasn’t just a bar but a place to form friendships and community.” Johnson explained that the French government subsidizes beer clubs, making it easy to explore and cultivate a taste for home brews and encourage new brewers. Culture and community is at the core of Ale Republic’s practices.

Ale Republic, when established, will be a democratic brew house. Those new to brewing can learn the process from scratch, while experienced home brewers can develop and refine their techniques using state-of-the-art equipment in a stable environment.

“Ale Republic is our best effort to turn a club into a business,” Johnson said. “We want to keep as much of that homegrown community feel as possible while producing the highest quality product.”

There are so many microbreweries and pubs popping up in the Duke City you may think you’ve died and gone to Portland, so what makes Ale Republic different from other up-and-coming microbreweries? The answer, according to Johnson, is education, democracy and the opportunity to experiment with new beer flavors like maple-bacon or green tea black ale. “If you can think about it, it’s been in a beer,” Johnson said. “I made a sweet and sour beer. People loved it. I know that sounds weird, but people are not only interested in drinking great beers, they want to make them,” Johnson said.

Ale Republic, when established, will be a democratic brew house. Those new to brewing can learn the process from scratch, while experienced home brewers can develop and refine their techniques using state-of-the-art equipment in a stable environment, which is key to a successful brew, Zach Gould, one of the Ale Republic partners, said. “Using our equipment, we want to remove all the variables for people as a means to fine-tune their recipes.”

Ale Republic members will get to try their hand at making their own brew, and the community will get to vote on which ales make it to production. Gould explained they are also creating an app that will allow beer lovers to rate, review and recommend their favorite Ale Republic beers, as well as beers from other local breweries.

“We give people a chance to take a chance on stuff,” Gould said. “They literally get to vote on what that chance is.” With Ale Republic’s Kickstarter campaign arriving at a successful conclusion, Gould said they’ll have the seed money to start the brewery in earnest. As far as a location for the brewery, Gould said, “We’re looking at the Wells Park area and Barelas.”

Part of building beer culture for Gould is finding a place that is centrally located in the city and easily accessible via non-automotive means of transportation. “We want to be the epicenter of beer in Albuquerque,” Gould added. If all goes according to plan, Ale Republic could open its doors as soon as January 2015. According to Gould, “We’re starting small—the hope is that we can put the pieces in place, motivate and inspire people around beer, from tasting to brewing. Want to learn anything about beer? You can come to us.”

Let your Ale Republic flag fly, and follow its progress at facebook.com/alerepublic.