“Why don’t they pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything?
If it works as well as prohibition did, in five years Americans would be the smartest race of people on Earth.”
“I’ll drink to that.” Such was the rampant sentiment with which Americans welcomed the repeal of the notorious 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which had prohibited “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors…” For more than a decade Prohibition had not only wrought dramatic increases in alcoholism and crime, it had created a lucrative black market for liquor. Gangsters such as Al Capone and thousands of bootleggers across the fruited plain basically fulfilled American demand for intoxicating liquor with a supply of unregulated, often lethal alcohol. Franklin Roosevelt, made the repeal of Prohibition integral to his campaign platform, calling Prohibition a “complete and tragic failure.”
Roosevelt made good on his campaign promises, culminating in the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which repealed Prohibition in 1933. In a proclamation declaring the repeal, Roosevelt urged Americans to “drink responsibly” and “… not bring upon themselves the curse of excessive use of intoxicating liquors, to the detriment of health, morals and social integrity.” In the first year after repeal, the federal government collected more than $258 million in alcohol taxes. Those millions–which accounted for nearly nine percent of the government’s tax revenue–helped finance Roosevelt’s New Deal programs in the ensuing years
Despite alcohol generated tax revenues, 1933 was, in many respects, not a very good year for the country. Tens of thousands of Americans hit road and rail in search of work. Unemployment peaked at 25.2% (one in four people), the worse year of the Great Depression. The United States banking system had to be propped up by the government to prevent the panic of masses withdrawing their money from banks. Continuing drought in the Midwest made once arable lands into dust bowls. Despite these seemingly insurmountable challenges, 1933 was also a year for rebounding and rebuilding–for the American people to prove once again that they had the resiliency and wherewithal to weather any storm and emerge stronger and more united.
Rio Rancho’s 1933 Brewing Company, which opened its doors in August, 2018, is named for the year in which the unpopular era of Prohibition ended. 1933 marked a turning point in America’s recovery, especially economically. The federal government enacted measures to strengthen the financial system, restore public confidence in banking, and help to dispel the pervasive sense of hopelessness that impacted every aspect of daily life. You get a sense for that renewed sense of optimism in the 30s-era jazz music piped in through the restaurant’s speakers. Edison-style lighting helps set an intimate mood while antique furnishings will transport you to that transitional era. So will the large antique gears and sprockets from the factories that employed so many people in the 1930s. One of the few remaining vestiges of its days as Fat Squirrel is the 20,000 Lincoln penny bar top.
The 1933 Brewing Co. is located at the home for nearly ten years of Fat Squirrel, an English pub-themed restaurant and tavern. According to its website, it specializes in developing unique, small batch craft beers and artisanal craft foods. Thank goodness for that. If the restaurant served foods celebrating the 30s, its menu would be replete with such delicacies as canned Spam, mock apple pie (made with Ritz crackers because apples were too expensive) and meatloaf (sadly made mostly with filler because meat, too, was expensive). Instead, the Brewing Company’s menu is fairly contemporary with a few surprises. It’s segmented into appetizers, salads, entrees, burgers, sides and sandwiches.
2 September 2018: Perhaps the most interesting among the appetizers is pastrami adovada fries featuring housemade smoked pastrami. Alas, the adovada is made with cumin, the bane of my existence. Because we couldn’t bring ourselves to try this starter, we ordered chile con queso and green chile salsa. Described as homemade, the queso on the con queso is Velveeta which some people argue isn’t even real cheese. Authenticity not withstanding, the con queso is creamy and generously endowed with roasted red and green chile. The chips are low in salt and formidable enough for Gil-sized portions of con queso or salsa. That green chile salsa has got a bite to it. The chile isn’t solely for decoration.
2 September 2018: Sadly, despite offering pastrami on the aforementioned adovada fries, the menu doesn’t list a pastrami sandwich among its four sandwich options. My Kim’s consolation prize was the NM Turkey Panini (house-roasted turkey breast layered with smoked Gouda, green chile, avocado, lettuce and onion on sourdough). We were pleasantly surprised to find that sourdough wasn’t just a type of bread, but a good descriptor for the bread’s yogurt-like acidity and tanginess. That bread is a nice canvas for a myriad of ingredients which go well together, especially the smoked Gouda and green chile. Instead of standard house-cut fries or sweet potato fries, we paid a small up-charge for Brussel sprouts fried with an Asian honey glaze. The slight bitterness of the Brussel sprouts contrasts nicely with the sweet Asian honey glaze.
2 September 2018: My friend Bruce “Sr. Plata” Silver, author of Sr. Plata’s Chicken Fried Steak Trail might be disappointed that the menu doesn’t include his favorite dish, but he’d get over it quickly should he order the chicken fried chicken which is smothered in a green chile gravy and served with mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables. The breading is rather coarse, perhaps seasoned breadcrumbs, but the chicken itself is tender and juicy. As usual, my preference would have been for even more of the green chile gravy. Instead of mashed potatoes, ask for the mac n cheese ( a slight up-charge), al dente macaroni cooked in a smoked Gouda cheese sauce. It’s good stuff. So are the sauteed vegetables which have a pleasant smokiness.
16 August 2019: In 2013 just before the Super Bowl, two Georgia men were arrested for allegedly stealing $65,000 worth of Tyson frozen chicken wings from a cold storage business where they worked. Had they not been caught, I might have tried to contact them to pull a job for me and steal the recipe for the three housemade sauces–Buffalo, BBQ and Korean BBQ–the 1933 Brewing Co. offers with its chicken wings. The Korean BBQ sauce, in particular, really stands out with its balance of sweet, spicy and savory notes. It’s wholly unlike the sometimes cloying bulgogi sauce some fusion restaurants use. Alas, the wings must have come from hummingbirds. Only a more meaty bird would be worthy of these sauces.
16 August 2019: Unlike terms which have multiple definitions, the term Rubenesque has only one. It relates to the works of painter Peter Paul Rubens whose works centered around pleasingly plump nude women. A second definition (with liberties taken on the spelling) should be added for Reuben sandwiches constructed from an Dagwood-sized stack of corned beef (or pastrami), sauerkraut, Russian dressing, melted Swiss cheese and grilled rye bread. As chronicled on this blog, there are a number of Reubens across the metropolitan area constructed of pleasingly plump (Rubenesque) proportions. The Rio Rancho Reuben (house-cured, smoked and sliced corned beef layered with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and spicy mustard on toasted marble rye) at the 1933 Brewing Co. is as big as any of them. Unlike its storied brethren, however, the corned beef isn’t especially tender and the spicy mustard takes some getting used to. Mind you, it’s not a bad Reuben. It’s just not in the rarefied air of other Rubenesque sandwiches.
16 August 2019: There are seven burgers on the menu, the most adventurous of which is topped with the restaurant’s smoked Gouda mac n cheese. All burgers feature house-ground beef patties and most come with standard fixings: house burger sauce, tomato, lettuce and onion on a brioche bun. When you’re craving umami (a term used to describe a pleasant savory taste), only the Mushroom Swiss Burger (grilled burger topped with Swiss cheese and garlic mushrooms) will do. We’re not talking canned mushrooms here. We’re talking fleshy fungi from a forest somewhere, the good stuff. It would have been better stuff as a mushroom duxelle (sautéed mushroom, shallot and herb mixture). Still, a very good burger.
In its annual “Hot Plate Awards” edition for 2019, Albuquerque the Magazine bestowed a well-deserved award to the 1933 Brewing Company for its “hot fries.” “It takes precision, quality and a certain unique flair to earn a Hot Plate Award” and the pastrami adovada fries have “shown all those traits, and then some.”
Nearly a century has elapsed since the challenging year for which this brewery-restaurant is named. In that century, one without the shackles of Prohibition, brewing has improved significantly. So has the culinary fare offered at establishments such as the 1933 Brewing Co.
1933 Brewing Co.
3755 Southern Blvd., S.E.
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 16 August 2019
1st VISIT: 2 September 2018
# OF VISITS: 2
BEST BET: Chicken Fried Chicken, Green Chile Salsa and Con Queso with Chips, New Mexico Turkey Panini, Chicken Wings, Mushroom Swiss Burger, Rio Rancho Reuben