New breweries are popping up in Albuquerque as fast as Vietnamese restaurants in strip malls. Now we even have a strip-mall brewpub. Bad Ass Brewery had a soft opening on Feb. 17, so I changed my plans of applying for a position at Sunflower and paid this place a visit. Upon entering, it was obvious this isn’t a typical operation. The brewing area is more of a homebrewer’s dream setup. It’s not surprising, considering that the founder, Matt Mikesell, is a former homebrewer. “My design in this brewery is to give the homebrewer a chance to start their own brewery with small overhead,” he says. He describes his setup as being like “the 7-Eleven of breweries—to make many beers and change taps quickly and keep old standbys around.” Part of his plan includes a monthly homebrewer’s contest.
Though the opening wasn’t publicized, there were around 25 people spread among the tables and 10-seat bar. The crowd was a mix of friends of the owner and those who had wandered in from Lucky’s Lounge next door. The “gentlemen” at the table next to me were enjoying the entertainment provided by a one-woman act performing songs on her electric guitar. While she sang, the men shouted words of encouragement like “Who’s your daddy!?” while sending dollar-bill tips her way in the form of mini paper airplanes.
The place looks like a Spencer’s that rented a booth at the flea market. Along with Guinness decorations and a “Rush Tour 2010” shirt, there’s a collection of Japanese swords that would make a disgruntled Moriarty teen jealous. Behind the bar were growlers from Bad Ass ($12 to fill), curiosities like two sci-fi/fantasy novels all alone on a shelf, and a picture of a pirate parrot holding a Margarita and declaring, “Polly wants a cocktail.”
There were 14 beers on tap during my visit—quite an accomplishment for a small-scale brewery with just the owner and his new assistants doing the labor. Pints are $4, and 5-ounce samples run a buck apiece. The congenial bartenders poured me eight samples, including two IPAs, a Belgian, a chocolate beer, an oatmeal stout, a coffee beer and a Scottish ale. The Zombie IPA was my preference of the two hoppy choices. The coffee version, dubbed Nutty Café, had a very strong resemblance to an International Delight hazelnut creamer, with slightly less sweetness. This beer made me consider that Bad Ass has potential as a place to bring both the “beer curious” and the “I don’t even like beer” person, as the tap list includes approachable versions of heavier styles and fruity raspberry and blueberry beers. It may also appeal to the “free meal” lover, as the bar offers popcorn, peanuts and other snacks gratis to patrons. I think some snuck away from their drinks at Lucky’s to take advantage.