Borderlands Brewing Set to Reopen With Much, Much, Much More Beer
January 17, 2013
by Teya Vitu
They imagined Borderlands Brewing Co. as primarily a brewery open for limited public beer tastings for those few who would want to venture into a brick warehouse on Toole Avenue.
There certainly wouldn’t be many people wanting to sample rookie beer, what with the purposely awkward tasting hours of 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday that the owners set up. Who’d show up for that? Certainly not enough people to build a business around.
Walk-in traffic, after all, wasn’t even mentioned in the Borderlands investor presentation. Wholesale distribution to bars and restaurants is the spelled-out business driver at Borderlands Brewing, 119 E. Toole Ave.
And then they opened the doors on Dec. 10, 2011.
“We have been busy to the point of selling out since the first day we opened,” said Myles Stone, who owns Borderlands Brewing along with partners Mike Mallozzi and Blake Collins.
“What surprised us was the people coming to the brewery,” Stone continued. “In our entire plan, we thought we’d be a wholesale brewery. But we’re at capacity (in the tasting area). Every Wednesday and Friday we usually see 200 people. Eight-five percent of the beer we brew is served here and 15 percent is shipped out. We planned the opposite.”
All that walk-in traffic allowed the Borderlands team to get a two-year head start on their future.
Borderlands shut down Dec. 10, 2012, exactly one year after opening, to vastly expand its brewing capabilities. Stone, Mallozzi and Collins didn’t think this expansion would come until two years from now.
The plan is to reopen Jan. 25 with expanded serving hours, a few new varieties of beer, chips and salsa, and finally a chalk board that announces the beers being served and the price per glass. Borderlands will now be open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. each night.
The owners stress Borderlands is not a bar – thus the unorthodox serving hours – but they have noticed it has unexpectedly evolved into something else beyond just a brewery.
“It’s becoming a nice community center,” Stone said.
The trio spent the holiday season and the opening weeks of the year transforming the north end of their space. Last time beer fans were in there, they saw three 12-keg fermentation tanks. Now, they will see four 40-keg fermentation tanks that dwarf the original 12-keggers, which remain in service.
“These little tanks that were the production tanks are now Blake’s experimentation tanks,” Stone said.
Collins, the brewmaster, has been experimenting all right. The first experiments to get a public sampling when Borderlands reopens will be an Horchata Ale and an Agua Bendita.
“The horchata ale is made with Sonoran white wheat, cinnamon and the majority of the grist is rice. Interesting enough, I added sesame to it,” Collins said.
The Horchata Ale is the first in an aqua fresca beer series that Collins wants to create along with a tamarind sour that might come later and a hibiscus saison that could come sooner.
The Sonoran white wheat also replaces the usual barley for the Agua Bendita, which Collins flavored with sweet orange peel, coriander, Jasmine tea from Maya Tea and “New Zealand hops for nice flavor and aroma.”
“We have the Sonoran white wheat grown for us in Arivaca,” Collins said.
These new beers join the Borderlands legacy beers that launched the brewery: Ol’ Loco IPA, Santa Rita Amber, Prickly Pear Wheat and Noche Dulce Vanilla Porter.
“A lot of people love the unique style and flavors we do,” Mallozzi said. “We really try hard to incorporate things from our region.”
Before the expansion, Borderlands had the brewing capacity to serve only the walk-in traffic and three wholesale clients: the Loft Cinema, Monkey Burger and Dry River Pizza.
Borderlands can now say “yes” to restaurants and bars wanting to serve their beer. And “yes” it will likely be quite a number of times in 2013 as Stone believes Borderlands beers could be getting poured at 30 to 40 restaurants within the next year.
“We have to figure out how much beer we sell here and then figure out how much beer we can distribute,” Mallozzi said.
Mallozzi and Stone may have come to beer brewing via Stone’s living room and then Stone’s parents’ garage and backyard, but they have pedigreed day jobs. Stone is an M.D. in the medical intern rotation at University of Arizona Medical Center. Mallozzi was making use of his Ph.D in microbiology and immunology as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Arizona.
“I’m just transitioning to full time at Borderlands,” Mallozzi said.
They brought in Collins to craft the beers. Collins had been home brewing beer for six years and was managing the Brew Your Own Brew shop when he came upon Stone and Mallozzi.
Collins doesn’t necessarily follow the traditional beer ingredient rules. Stone and Mallozzi let him play with ingredients.
“They’ve gotten to the point they trust me,” Collins said.
Stone said, “Every beer he’s come up with has knocked it out of the park.”
Borderlands Brewing is a working brewery, not a brew pub, not a bar, not a place with a dining menu. In fact, Borderlands itself didn’t have any food at all until they started offering chips and salsa from the local producer Chilttepica just before shutting down. The snacks will be back when Borderlands reopens.
A food truck or two typically parks outside when Borderlands is open.
Stone and Mallozzi consciously wanted to have their brewery Downtown rather than just somewhere in Tucson. Most Friday evenings, bands play at Borderlands. But both are surprised at the huge popularity Borderlands has gained for walk-in traffic.
“I think we learned how excited people were to have something like this Downtown, to hear local bands and drink local beer,” Mallozzi said.