FARMINGTON – When you enter Lauter Haus Brewing Co., it’s easy to wonder if you’ve traveled back in time. Neon lights flicker behind the taps, pinball machines line the walls, bold graffiti catches the eye, brightly-colored furniture is scattered throughout, and cornhole boards line the far wall. It’s casual, fun and reminiscent of the 1970s and ’80s in a 21st century world that seems filled with reboots and sequels.
But Lauter Haus, which opened in late October on the north side, is a welcome original in a town of more than 45,000 people that for the past couple of decades boasted one brewery.
“There’s no place like it in Farmington,” Varissa Dehoyos said. Dehoyos and her friend Stephanie Archuleta said they like to visit the brewery after working out at the nearby gym. “The bartenders know you when you first walk in, and there’s stuff to do,” she said, referencing the pinball machines, dartboard and cornhole boards.
For owner and brewmaster Brandon Beard, this was the vibe he wanted to cultivate. With so many craft breweries popping up throughout the region, it gives owners a chance to specialize and decide what kind of niche they want to fill, he said. Beard said his brewery’s aesthetic was influenced by nostalgia for the ’70s and ’80s and a desire to be “completely different from anything in Farmington.”
Antonio Martinez, who was visiting the bar for the first time, said the atmosphere was an unexpected draw. “It’s pretty chill,” he said.
Beard also knows how to cultivate good brews. For the past 15 years, he worked at Three Rivers Brewery as a bartender and head brewer before leaving in January to establish Lauter Haus.
“I didn’t go into it blind,” he said.
But the process hasn’t been without struggle. The 2019 government shutdown, which lasted 40 days, delayed federal licensing, pushing the July opening into autumn.
Beard’s fondness for nostalgia didn’t stop with the pinballs and graffiti. Although he appreciates a good IPA, he wants to expand beer options beyond the popular beer of the moment.
“I’m going to try to revamp or bring back styles that are classic,” he said.
This includes German-style lagers. The name of the brewery originates from the “lautering” process – separating the mash into the clear liquid wort and the residual grain – and is a nod to Beard’s love of German brews. “I want to be a German-influenced brewery as much as I can,” he said, adding he hopes to have at least three German beers on tap.
He likes the challenge.
“As I grew as a brewer, I learned that lagers are the hardest beers to make because you can’t hide anything behind the hops,” Beard said.
The brewery has been busy its first month, especially on weekends. “When there’s not very many bars in town, they’re going to find you,” he said. But to help ease the transition from new business to a community staple, he plans a monthly teacher appreciation night and regular pinball tournaments with Durango Pinball. Although the brewery doesn’t serve food, a couple of local food trucks park outside, and Beard said customers may bring their own food.
The growth of Farmington’s craft brewery scene reflects “community based” growth in New Mexico, said Leah Black, executive director of New Mexico Brewers Guild. Many brewers consult one another, and some breweries collaborated.
While the brewers guild has 81 members, more than half are in Albuquerque, Black said. But breweries are popping up in small communities that previously didn’t have much of a craft brewery scene.
Although the growth is part of a larger national trend toward local breweries and distilleries, New Mexico has seen particularly strong growth in recent years. With more than five breweries per capita, the Land of Enchantment ranks 10th in the country for the number of breweries per 100,000 drinking-aged adults, according to the Brewers Association’s 2018 report. Colorado, often considered the center of craft brewery for the Four Corners, ranks fourth in the nation with about nine breweries per capita.
For those who want to enjoy the atmosphere minus the hops, Lauter Haus recently began selling local New Mexico wines and creating an alcoholic seltzer.
“I think people are going to have a really fun time there,” Black said of Lauter Haus.
On a Thursday night at Lauter Haus, many patrons expressed excitement that an additional brewery had opened up.
“I really do think there’s an interest because this place has a different location than downtown. There’s enough parking and it’s centrally located,” Dehoyos said.
For Dehoyos and Archuleta, it’s the casual atmosphere and quality brews that have kept them coming back.
“It’s kind of like an adult fun house,” Archuleta said. “With good beer.”